This past summer, I had the privileged of working with fabulous educators including professors at the Central Connecticut Writing Project. With the guidance of Dr. Valerie and Dr. Ostrowski, we were given permission to explore our writing by exploring ideas that were personal, meaningful, and given permission to be crafted in a variety of ways.
With different activities and write-a-thons, I began to truly analyze how I taught writing in the past and the way I was currently guiding teachers on instructing writing. The standards are always in the forefront but the method of delivery and the lack of student choice is problematic. What is most discouraging is watching an uncomfortable writer have no inkling on where to start, how to start, and simply gives up as soon as a writing booklet is given to them. There is a sea of creative children that simply struggle with writing down their fabulous ideas. When conferring with them, they have an enormous amount of details and ideas wonderfully explained. I can pinpoint my “a-ha” turning point that helped me realize, educators need to do something different to reach all student writers. I found myself sitting with a child who was avoiding the writing paper in front of them. I sat down next to them and ask them to tell me a story they were thinking of. After a couple of minutes, the student ended the story. I was engrossed in the details this child verbalized to me. As I ended my conferring time, I touch there empty writing paper and stated to them… “your details are very vivid and I see everything you just told me. Go ahead and put down your thoughts you told me right here on the paper.” I walked over to another student and after sometime, looked back, only to be puzzled as to why this fantastic storyteller still had a blank page. My heart sank and I begin to question what else can I do for this student.
The sharing of ideas and activities during CCWP sessions, began to inspire a different understanding of writing with children can look like. My colleagues shared a variety of topics including motivation, technology, poetry, vocabulary, and activities that inspire students to write. As the project ended, my brain wheels began to spin and seek out information on how to best to help make writing authentic and accessible to all students. And so I began investigating current trends in writing. I realized I have been locked into a writing program and hardly new the new trends that were appearing in writing. I found myself inadequate with knowledge on how to utilize technology in writer’s workshop. Searching for more information digital writing… I came to a major crossroad.
I landed upon the name Angela Stockman. I read reviews of her book Make Writing 5 Teaching Strategies That Turn Writer’s Workshop Into a Maker Space and immediately ordered it. I learned immediately what a “hack” actually was and how it was being used in the education world. This opened gigantic doors to what I call the “Silicone Valley” of education. All very new territory for my brain. I simply wrote by having a writer’s notebook and visiting it often. The methods I was reading about at first were confusing but the more I dug into them, the quicker I made the realization that I needed to further my knowledge of these new trends quickly. As I connected with Angela via email, she quickly provided additional information and took me into a new exploration of ideas: maker development and maker space. I had some familiarity with maker space since my school had a design lab focused on the engineering process. I could see it within the STEM model, but to connect this movement with writing; is just amazing! I began consuming all information I could get my hands on and decided to apply for a grant that could afford opportunities for me to learn even more.
I’m on the path of creating an after school maker space for writing. A sort of writing studio that students can choose to come to and explore writing. I have begun to gather my materials and although nervous to venture in this uncomfortable place, I remind myself…. it’s for the children! I hope they are as excited to invent and create their writing and I am in watching their journey.