Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Writing as Making

I believe writing is making.  Making meaning, making sense of our world, making beauty or stories or making ideas, or whatever….. and kids know that writing can be powerful. There are lots of research studies that say kids distinguish between school writing and other writing, so I won’t go there…because Lucy taught me that firsthand.

When I worked with her in fourth grade, she was an amazingly prolific writer who was also creative, funny and imaginative. She wrote a LOT about what she knew–which is one of the first rules about writing–write from your heart, your gut, your very soul–and talk about what you know.  You can certainly use writing to learn more, but it has to begin with a grain of something you know.  You can check out her fourth grade blog here, but the one that got my attention was this one. Not only was it full of visual imagery, but her imagination and belief came through. I still go back to reread it occasionally.  I still point people to it (like I am doing now.)

She went on to write about her pets, her family, her friends, and the language she used, her descriptions and her way of telling a story just really put me right there in the moment with her and her pets, especially. She was playful with language and format, and did most of her writing outside of school, on her own time.

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Then she moved to fifth grade and I got to teach her for reading group–not writing, just reading. There was a lot of pressure this particular year, because 5th graders take a state writing test in Virginia, and with teachers and students new to 5th grade, both the kids and teachers felt that pressure. Lucy especially felt that pressure, and blogged about it.  I think her blog post says it all, and clearly shows she sees a difference between “writing” (school writing) and her own creations.

The statement “Then I started to take mastery for writing and got so many suggestions from my teachers that it took the you out of writing because I felt like I was under pressure to remember all the things that they had put on my shoulders and that was just terrible.” is referring to the fact she felt pressure to follow a five paragraph essay formula, and that is not how she naturally writes. That’s not how she “makes” stories or tells tales, or shares her life. Without that formulaic writing crutch, her writing is excellent–and I had faith the scorers of her writing test would recognize her expertise.

I hope she’s gone beyond that formula and realized how important her own judgement is….I’d love to read some of her current writing. I hope she has not let other people take “the you out of writing”.

Most of all, I hope I never take the the you out of writing,  but instead let/help/support kids make it their own.

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5 thoughts on “Writing as Making

  1. Thank you for this. I loved reading Lucy’s writing. It is sad that testing has made reading and writing about mastery of skills instead of about communication and understanding. I write to understand myself, my world and to grapple with ideas. I certainly don’t follow the 5 paragraph essay! So much of what is taught has become formulaic. It stifles passion.

    • Susan,
      I love Lucy’s writing as well–and am sending a link to this post to her Mom, so she can share it with Lucy. Maybe it will help her become motivated to share her stories once again. 🙂

      That passion is what the NWP (National Writing Project) promotes so much and I have been so lucky to be involved with them for so long–That’s Sunday’s post, though…so look out for it. Thanks for sharing why you write…I love to share writer’s feelings of that with kids. Wonder if others would add their reasons if I asked on Twitter?

  2. Becky Ellis on said:

    Lucy’s writing is beautiful. Paula, you asked for us to tell you why we write. I heard you in the Twitterverse….. So…why do I write? I write to make connections – to myself, to others, to ideas. Sometimes the connections are about emotions, sometimes about logic or reason, but always they are about creating ties and meaning. It is strange, but by making these connections and creating these bonds, I believe that writing actually sets us free. I hope that my students feel that, too; it’s why I teach.

    • Becky,
      Thanks for responding…I, too, write to connect. Sometimes I connect to myself, sometimes to others, and sometimes to facts, beliefs or thoughts I didn’t know I had. Writing, for me, makes meaning. It is an important part of who I am, who I have been, and who I may become. I appreciate your beliefs and aspirations for your students. I, too, want my students to experience the power of writing. Lucy will be reading this blog post later tonight, so thanks for sharing how you feel about her writing.

  3. I have been sharing those two posts of Lucy’s as a part of my NVWP presentation for three years now. My focus in the presentation is on the power of audience and the importance of offering students audience beyond the teacher. Thank you for sharing Lucy’s writing again.

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