I do not plan. Ok, maybe that's not true, entirely. But I do not plan on paper. I do not use graphic organizers. I do not outline or take notes before writing essays. Even written lesson planning is not my strong suit. Although I have been known to make a list or two.
I guess I would say I plan in my head, although I'm not sure that's any different than just thinking about stuff. I mentioned before that blogging suits me because I just start writing. But I pretty much do that with any writing. 2, 5, 25, 50 page papers - I just started writing. Research papers - I do loads and loads of reading. But no real planning. Then I wait for it to come. It. The impetus to write.
So, the chapter I picked this week from Best Practices is "Best Practices in Teaching Planning." I figured I might learn a thing or two.
First, I laughed out loud when the author wrote about the kid who says he can't write because he "doesn't know where the pencil sharpener is." I have a text-to-classroom connection for that one. ;)
I was particularly interested in the section on teaching strategies for planning a report. I was struck by how broken down and explicit it was. I was also struck by the discussion of the inquiry and prewriting phases of planning, and how lengthy they were! The idea of spending a writing class in a wheelchair in order to better write about someone with a disability? I can hardly imagine doing something like that in class, but it makes so much sense! If we want our kids to write with all their senses, about life's experiences and mistakes and wonderment, we have to give them time and space to explore the world. I've done the occasional "Let's go outside and write sensory details" thing, but what this chapter makes me think is that what I really need to do in my writing time is slow down.
I'm feeling rushed, and so I'm rushing them. I need to have this and that in the portfolios, and student work on the walls, and it's the beginning of the year so I have none of that, so HURRY UP AND WRITE SOMETHING KIDS!
Seriously, that's what I've been doing to them. Funny to have read this chapter tonight because today was probably the best writing session we've had yet. (Granted it was a short writing period.) A couple things were different. One, I decided that we needed to start writing with a meeting on the carpet. Then, we had a general conversation about writing and what we were thinking about it. We're supposed to write these "Life Plans," so that's my writing theme for the next couple weeks, but I'm trying to put a spin on it a little. We talked about how they've written them in the past. (They do this every year.)
Then I read them this quote, and asked them to talk about it:
"If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going." ~Wendell Barry
And finally, I read them George Ella Lyon's poem, Where I'm From. (Brian is probably cringing reading this, but I had never even heard of this poem until he mentioned how overused it was in some schools.) We talked about it, and about how parts of it made no sense to us and how we thought that was probably because it was something that was so personal to the author that we wouldn't necessarily get every detail but could get the overall vibe.
Then we all spent about 10 minutes on the carpet writing/sketching in our notebooks under the heading, "Where I'm From." I wrote too - the first time I've done it in front of them. It seemed pretty powerful, I have to say. I just haven't been able to get my #$%% together enough to do it. And then we shared, and laughed over our common memories of sibling torture and parental threats and tasty food and mischievous plots. And what I'm totally loving about that is that A, everyone was actually writing; B, everyone seemed pretty into it; C, it felt like a community of writers for the first time, with sharing and getting inspiration of each other; and D, this list is not only going to help us write this Copy/Change poem, but become a repository of ideas to go back to for writing.
Of course, at the time I was thinking, "Good God, that's all we got through today? We're so behind." But now, I'm thinking this was time very well spent.