Joy Write Question 9
The series of posts for “Joy Write” refer to the title of the text our new Summer Institute participants are reading. This is a fabulous book that examines writing instruction, published in 2017 by Ralph Fletcher. Our SI participants are going to comment on the questions, but any reader is welcome to contribute (whether you have read the book or not).
Chapter 9-10: What type of writing do you think you use most- writing to communicate or writing to think/learn/problem-solve? What kind of writing do you ask your students to do more of?
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As I function daily mostly as a professional. Seems I have little time to play with writing. In my typical day there is little opportunity to “joy write” and play. For instance, I have very little time to gain catharsis in my own personal endeavors, struggles and/or triumphs through a home journal/diary writing. I am now thinking I need to change this asap! I must be first partaker and a model for students- modeling “joy writing.” Fortunately, this year due to our new Collins Writing Program that requires all teachers in every discipline to have students write every day by completing a Collins 1 writing type which encourages students to simply put ideas on paper students had an opportunity daily to think/learn/problem solve and play with writing. I implemented the Collins Writing Program this year and I’ll be honest I think my students and I both felt a little uneasy. Unfortunately, or now I’m thinking after reading these chapters “fortunately” more time was spent with Collins 1 quick writes that did include a general question or topic but were always non-graded. More time was spent engaged in quick writes than with formal formulaic essay writing with an attached rubric.
Also, according to Fletcher informal “joy writing” to play, think/learn/problem solve encourages the most reluctant writer and builds a community of writers- a writer’s guild where writers want to write and to share their writing. According to Fletcher when given a sincere attempt and done consistently informal “joy writing” builds academic muscle and increases engagement. My school district is pushing engagement and if my students buy into “joy writing” I believe it would be yet another avenue for student engagement.
I typically ask my students to answer stimulus based prompts in which they are expected to analyze specific dynamics in psychology or human geography. This is not very different from the bulk of my own writing, which involves communications with peers involving the analysis of professional issues. Though it is hard to find what I would call joy in this kind of writing, I would characterize it as intellectually stimulating; something that students too could learn to appreciate and value. Take this exercise for example; I am being asked to respond to a prompt that requires analysis of the dynamics of my teaching and not free respond in an optional exercise. I find it to be an interesting endeavor, and not constrictive or burdensome at all.
I definitely use writing to communicate the most. As a teacher, I’m constantly sending e-mails and texts whether it be to students, parents, administrators, or other teachers. When I’m home, text messages fly back and forth between me and my friends, people reply to me on social media, etc.
While this is what I’m doing the most, I am constantly asking my students to write in order to learn/problem-solve. We’ve tried to incorporate different types of communicative writing, though, because we saw a need for it. Our 8th graders had no idea how to send an e-mail to a teacher, and they essentially were e-mailing us as if we were their friends via text message. We worked with the computer literacy teachers, and now they learn how to properly compose and send an e-mail to different audiences. The Social Studies teachers are sent an e-mail during this process, and they’re asked to respond so that students can see what a true correspondence looks like.
I use writing for thinking and planning quite a bit. From lists to brainstorms to jotting ideas, I like to hand write and I use lots of Post its. I have always found that writing helps me remember to. I have always used writing as a study method. As for my students, my first thought would be that they write more to communicate but seeing all of the above posts, I recognize that there are so many ways we can use writing to think, learn, and problem solve that I may have overlooked. That might be how my students view writing too: mostly about completing an assignment and not really counting all the thinking that happens before we get to any of those products.
I probably do more writing to think/process; I actually started an idea book at the beginning of the school year that I took to the numerous meetings and PDs I am required to attend. I started just recording information, but I very quickly found myself pulling out my idea book all the time. It has become a combination of professional to-do lists, rants about daily problems, and idealistic statements about how I will solve the problems of education next year 🙂
I don’t really know how my students would respond; there are a lot of students who are (or at least think they are) more verbal and they would rather talk about ideas than write them. I also think many of them value spoken communication over written. I feel like a number of my students only see writing as some that needs to be done to complete an assignment.
I love the idea of keeping track of ideas like that! Must be so helpful for planning and freshening up lessons each year!
I write to think/learn/problem solve more than I do to communicate, although I write for both purposes fairly often. I jot down various ideas that I have for potential stories and poetry at random when I am inspired by my surroundings and experiences. I am so forgetful that I absolutely have to write these things down or else they will disappear into the void. I also find myself making a lot of “to-do lists”.
In class, my students definitely do more thinking/learning/problem solving as well. I teach them how to annotate, brainstorm, and outline, which ends up being the bulk of their informal writing. There are a few opportunities for them to communicate with one another, such as during peer review, but it is very infrequent. This is something I would like to work on personally incorporating in my classroom. I would love to see how my students might respond to each other’s informal writing, instead of just their formal papers.
I think one of the things I write the most is lists. So I suppose that means I write more to think/plan/problem-solve. My lists help keep me on track for what I need to accomplish for the day or what I don’t want to forget. I stick notes to my coffee pot so I don’t forget to do or bring something to work in the morning. With my academic writing, I tend to make outlines and drafts before I submit a final version.
I can’t say if I use writing to communicate or writing to think/learn/problem solve more in my own writing because these are all inextricably linked. Using daily morning pages, I spent a substantial time writing to think and learn. Several of the ideas I think through in this space become ideas and insights that I will later communicate to my students, peers, or colleagues.
On the other hand, my more public-facing writing (conference papers, online course content, articles, etc.) all start as writing-to-communicate pieces, but inevitably I refine my thinking and understanding. I can’t tell you how many times I have submitted an abstract to a conference only to show up and say, this paper ended up going in a slightly different direction. This comes from refining my thinking as I write to communicate the argument I’ve outlined in the abstract.
For my students, though, I almost exclusively focus on writing-to-communicate assignments. I would like to change this approach to balance it with writing to think. In fact, the first-year writing sequence has three objectives: Write to compose. Write to think. Write about writing. I tend to downplay writing as thinking in my composition courses, even though that is essential to my own writing practice. In the fall, I want to find ways to incorporate more writing-to-think prompts that fit into Fletcher’s greenbelt writing framework.
Although I write to communicate often via email and text, I think I probably write to think/learn/problem solve more often. I am quick to grab scratch paper to workout a problem, make a list of things I need to accomplish, think through my dinner menu for the week, etc.
As for my students, I definitely require them to write to think/learn more often and think it would be really beneficial for them to write to communicate more. As I mentioned earlier, my students love to write notes to each other (when not teacher directed–HA!) and can only imagine how much fun they would have if I asked them to write and pass notes to each other. We also write to pen pals in Philadelphia as part of a school-wide initiative, which they really enjoy, but even that feels a bit forced. Not to mention we are required to write only one “whole class” letter so students don’t get to put their personal voice into each letter. I’d like to find a better way for students to communicate with peers through writing.
I would have to say that through my roles at work that mainly I use writing to communicate. I do a daily email to co-workers across the state PDE system on legal issues, legislation, government events that impact our work and/or the work of those who are directly in the field of education (mainly k-12 but some higher ed and some Pre-K/EI) and other connected topics. I seek info out and share it. I also summarize legal cases for review with one of my state-wide teams.
On the other hand, I do use writing to think and learn. While I am creating what I listed in the previous paragraph, I am also learning and processing especially when summarizing. I have increased my knowledge in those areas immensely in the past 2 years that I have been at PaTTAN.
Furthermore, when preparing professional development in my targeted state initiatives I must do research on the sub topics and determine what is necessary for the audience we will have. Fir example, in preparing for a training at a local district this week, Alternatives to Expulsion & Suspension, I had to do some deeper digging on data and methods that are evidence based. I had to read deeper into culturally responsive teaching, bias, microaggressions, vulnerable decision points, key responsibility areas and so forth due to this training being a day 3 in a series of at least 3 full days. In this way, I am pulling together the information through analysis, summarization, and evaluation so that I can ‘own it’ and thus, provide the content in a meaningful way. Along with colleagues we decide how to best deliver the content so that it is not ‘stand and deliver’ as so often happens. The writing allows us to collaborate and brainstorm what is likely to be most effective in helping schools improve their support and services for all students in their buildings.
When I was in the classroom, the bulk of the writing was to help the students learn in various contexts. They would write about topics in social studies or science. The writing helped them take their research to create reports or projects as determined by the teachers. I would help them do this work either in my ELA periods with them or in the Resource Room periods since the grades typically were all doing the same topics in science and social studies. This common theme in the grade levels allowed me to support the students and let them work together as deemed appropriate. Yet in the end the writing became a way of students communicating what they learned to their teachers and/or to their classmates.
In thinking more about this prompt, it makes me think that writing is overall inherently both communication and a method to learn/think/process/problem solve because it could be a communication to oneself and/or to others. When writing, even if a list of To Dos, one is trying to communicate yet also solving the issue of deciding what is needing to be done. I know I use list writing for a myriad of tasks so that I remember what is needing to be done and by when and possibly in what sequence, basically prioritizing.