Give Writers Permission to Innovate by Rethinking the Supplies You Provide

writer's workshopIn my work with teachers, and in our fellowship programs at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, I’ve become closely acquainted with a few kids who absolutely hate writing.

What’s worse is that they believe they aren’t capable of it. Why? Well, mostly because they are unable to sit silently before a screen or page and push words out of the end of their fingers in a coherent fashion until every inch of white space is covered in text.

When I invite this same group of kids to do stand up and pace a bit as they plan, things go a bit better. When I teach them how to do a “brain dump” by scribbling each of their ideas on individual sticky notes, they say it brings them relief.

“It’s like I have a million little incomplete ideas swirling around in my head,” I’m told all too often. “It’s so overwhelming. But if I can get each of them down on a sticky note, then they are out of my head.” Once the sticky notes are displayed across the surface of a table or on a wall, they can be clustered, categorized, mixed and organized. Connections are made between incomplete ideas, and often, powerful and coherent conclusions are drawn.

Some writers need to move, and they need their writing to move as well.

And others can’t begin with print, so I show them how to doodle the arc of their stories across long scrolls of paper. Once they realize that they don’t have to sit and type in order to write, they immediately sink into their process.

These are just a few stories, and they aren’t representative of all writers, of course. In my experience, it’s usually the outliers who make these unconventional practices their own. They are the kids who struggle most when asked to approach writing in traditional ways, and they are also the ones who possess the greatest confidence and dexterity.

I’m not sure why. I’m still learning more.

In the mean time, I’ve begun sharing much of what I’ve discovered with other teachers and parents and the kids I get to work with in classrooms and at Studio.

I’ll be sharing a lot of that learning here, too.

Interested in helping some of your students make writing? It begins by adding a few new tools to your workbench. The list below includes most of the supplies that I try to have on hand at Studio as well. Don’t rush out and order all of them at once. Start small, use what you have, and add as you go.

Lucy Calkins suggests that the supplies we offer writers reveal our expectations as teachers. I’ve learned that they extend permission to do things very differently. They prompt innovation as well.

Interested in learning more about how to make writing moveable and mixable? I share specific strategies and approaches in my new book, Make Writing. You’ll find other stories from Studio there. Come talk with me about them on Twitter.

MakeCover

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