Effective Writing Instruction Teaches Developing Writers to Construct
Jul 31, 2017 Writing 993 Views
Research teaches us that in order for reading to be beneficial to a reader that it must be embraced as a meaning-making process. This suggests that the act of reading involves deriving understanding from the text. Since reading and writing are reciprocal processes, it can be assumed that just as meaning is gathered from reading that some benefit should be gathered from writing. This indeed is true. Writing can be considered an informational-constructive process because the writer's endeavor should always be to construct and deliver information in a matter that can be successfully transferred to their audience. In order for this to occur, writing instruction should be geared towards ensuring that students write with clarity, cohesiveness, and "sharability".
So, let's begin by exploring clarity. The term clarity, in this sense, suggests that the writer demonstrates the ability to deliver a transparent message to his or her audience. Many times when guiding our developing writers through the writing process we quickly notice that the story that they are able to share orally is not as easily transferred to paper. This is often the case because children generally master speaking before writing. They are exposed to it first and experience more opportunities to perfect it than they do their writing. However, as teachers, our primary goal must be to scaffold their writing attempts or approximations by scaffolding their language. In order to accomplish this, consider probing in ways that seek more details, challenge conflicting ideas, and that encourage elaboration. The goal is to aid the writer in understanding that the purpose of the probing is to help him or her to fill in gaps in their writing piece and to add more depth. Any time gaps are filled and details are added more information is construed by the writer.
In terms of cohesiveness, the metaphor of a patch quilt comes to mind. Consider how these quilts were made by hand using an array of fabrics and patterns. The final product often resulted in beautifully, detailed heirlooms that were passed down from generation to generation. The same imagery can apply to the connectedness of the parts of a writing piece. This is accomplished when we teach our developing writers how to eliminate non-essential information or information that does not support the crafting of a well-developed writing topic. This is further accomplished when we teach our students how to follow one stream of consciousness as they write. In other words, developing writers must be guided in "staying the course" as they write. I like to tell writers that when they write that they may want to think of themselves as having an "elephant" mind versus a "monkey" mind. It is in an elephant's nature to move with a sense of focus, whereas monkeys tend to swing and jump from one branch of a tree to another without notice. I often go on to explain to young writers that "good" writers are focused and serious about their writing like an elephant. The idea is that if writers can focus in on their writing idea, then they can eliminate the possibility of venturing off topic.
Last, but definitely not least, is the idea of "sharability". A classroom teacher who has worked with developing writers for any period of time have more than likely experienced the "I don't think there's anything wrong with my story" writer. These are typically the writers who find great value in their writing, and have not embraced the fact that writing that will be shared with others should be written in a way that they find value in its conveyed message. One way to get young children to "buy into" this idea is to remind them that they are writers just like the writers that they are introduced to them mentor texts. Hence, as writers, especially "good writers", the writer writes for the joy of sharing his or her story, but also for the enjoyment that the reader will feel when he or she reads it as well. If writing is meant to be shared, then the reader should be able to read it, enjoy it, and share it with others.
Conclusively, as teachers of writing, we want to send a message to our writers that "good" writing leaves the reader with information. This information may be information that the reader was not aware of, information that confirmed what the reader already knew, or information that extended what the reader already knew. Regardless of the specific, final outcome, the writer should have a sense of awareness regarding the significant role that they play in this informational-constructive process. Thus, by using kid-friendly language that explores clarity, cohesiveness, and "sharability", students are able to take more ownership of their writing process and better value this process as well.