19 Jun Slice of Life: When Topic and Structure Don’t Match Purpose #SOL18 #TWTBlog
Early this morning I sat down in my garden with a cup of coffee (in my favorite writing mug) with plans to write my slice of life. I thought through my topic and my structure the prior day. I even had my lead sentence drafted in my mind.
When my fingers hit the keyboard, they did not follow the plan. I had something I needed to say. A different draft found its way onto the blank paper in front of me. An hour later I realized that the piece I drafted was not a slice of life. The structure did not fit. As writers, we consider topic, structure, and audience. Some days we have a topic in mind that does not fit the structure or audience we have in mind. Some days we have a structure in mind that does not fit our topic. When we write purposefully and meaningfully we need to keep topic, structure, and audience in mind.
As an adult writer, I can make a decision to repurpose my writing and draft a new piece (this piece) for the purpose I planned to write for this morning. This experience pushed me to think about the realities our young writers often face in our classrooms. Even in classrooms where students have choice in topic, they often do not have choice of structure or genre. I believe in having units of study for young writers to have the time to truly construct an understanding of a genre, craft or structure. At the same time, I want to create space for students to express what they need to convey in the way they want to convey it. How do we provide both this type of support and voice to our writers?
I often joke with teachers, “If a six-year-old comes into school telling you he is moved to write a personal story and you are in an informational unit of study, let them write a personal story.” My point has been if they know what they want to write and how they need to express it – our job is done. I realized today that this is not a topic to be taken lightly. We do need to make sure our students have the time to truly explore a type of writing and have the space to deviate for a meaningful purpose.
I am not sure I have an explicit answer, system or procedure in mind. I think today I was left with more questions than answers. I do know we need to listen to our students, respect their process, and offer them an invitation to consider topic, structure, and audience when they write. I do know I will continue to think about how to plan and advocate for these experiences I know students will have once they begin truly writing with purpose.