Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Helping Students Plan Their Writing: Increasing the Volume of Student Writing Part 2

Recently, I wrote a post about increasing the volume of student writing and I included several bullets with specific ideas for encouraging and facilitating students to write more. With most (arguably all) skills, the more that you practice, the easier they become; I strongly consider writing to be in this category so it's no wonder that the gap between proficient and fluent writers grows for the simple reason that fluent writers write more. Therefore, my next few posts are going to expound on some of the bulleted ideas.

One of the ideas was to have students spend less time planning. I recently modeled a mini-lesson in a second-grade classroom teaching the students about different ways to plan and we generated the chart that I have included:

The children timed me as I sketched the pictures for my story of learning to ride a wave at the beach and they were amazed that my four pictures took me less than 2 minutes. My point to them was that the picture was less important to me as the fact that it would help me to write my story. I also really wanted them to realize that each picture in the foursome was important and was inspiring me to write. When I modeled the planning method of the story map as shown on the bottom of the chart, the classroom teacher asked the students about why I was not writing in complete sentences. One of the students responded that the mountain was only there to help me write the story I was planning. Exactly.

Please don't misunderstand me. I value the planning process. However, I think that sometimes students who don't enjoy writing avoid writing with planning. When their plans have more on the page than their writing pieces, a problem exists.(And, yes, I have seen this...) I think that an important lesson for developing writers, especially fluent writers, is that some pieces require more planning than others. For example, when Jarrett Krosoczka, the author of Lunch Lady books, spoke to students at our school, he described his meticulous and thorough planning process. Additionally, when students are developing pieces that involve research, I think that it is helpful to sort through the research and categorize it; this sorting and categorizing is absolutely part of the planning process. But, nothing teaches writing better than writing.

Returning to my second graders, I finished the mini-lesson by challenging them to pick a planning method that they thought would work for them. They had to first be sure that they were able to tell their story across their finger and then they could pick their method. I was pleased with the variety of choices in the room. I was also pleased with the variety of teaching points that I could find within the thirty minutes that they worked. Almost all of them were writing within ten minutes and my teaching points were:

  • how to have each part of the plan have an important share in the story (no ignoring a picture or a point on the story mountain!!!)
  • How to make sure that the story really does end with the last picture,page, or point on the story mountain-I loved listening to the children hit that point and then get their story going!
  • That revisions can occur even in the planning phase and sometimes those are the most powerful revision moves. Young writers (okay, old writers, too...) become attached to their writing quickly but when they (okay, we...) know that we have only invested a small amount of time and energy in the developing piece, they are more receptive and agreeable to rethinking a piece. I have a page in my notebook that I am including here: These pages show young writers how I drew different story mountains, but revised them based on what I realized I really wanted to write about.

So, I would love to hear about how other teachers are having students plan in their writing workshops. How much scaffolding do you give? How much time do you expect planning to take? How do you teach and challenge students to revise their plans?

No comments:

Post a Comment