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.
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.