Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: When Topic and Structure Don’t Match Purpose #SOL18 #TWTBlog
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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.

Clare

 

 

7 Comments
  • Elisabeth Ellington
    Posted at 23:45h, 19 June Reply

    This is something I have been thinking about too–how to teach the genres and structures I believe my students need but not require writing within those genres and structures while we’re studying the unit if a student needs to go in a different direction. It’s tricky!

  • Trina Haase
    Posted at 00:13h, 20 June Reply

    There’s so much to think about in this smart post, Clare: the structure and topic matching the audience, the ability to let a child write what he or she needs to, and even how sometimes our best intended plans is not always what we publish.

  • Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 01:06h, 20 June Reply

    You present quite a conundrum. The workshop models espouses choice, so how do we provide instruction in the various genres and structures all the while offering and respecting author’s choice. As always you leave me reflecting further!

  • Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 01:25h, 20 June Reply

    Yes, there are more questions in your post than answers, but they are important questions, for sure. I like the idea of having short independent writing units woven into the curriculum throughout the year, but that doesn’t solve the issue of when the student has an important story to tell in the middle of an information writing unit. It’s almost like you need an independent booth or section of the classroom so that the physical space supports and indicates the intention of stepping outside of the “expected” genre at that moment. Hmmmm.

  • Julieanne
    Posted at 03:35h, 20 June Reply

    I struggle with this idea as well. We need to allow for volume. We need to give students time to write, and not necessarily in or for that unit of study. I think about how we approach reading. We want and give lots of independent reading time, that does not necessarily reflect the reading lesson. In my case, I know my students’ reading lives are stronger than their writing lives.

    And my slice this week has a tiny slice or two buried in it. Today I wrote what I needed to write. I suppose if I break the rules from time to time, I should allow my kiddos to as well.

  • Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 09:04h, 20 June Reply

    This is a place where I agree with everything you say and write but I wonder how that actually looks in the work. Today you reminded me to connect how I write to how they write. This will definitely work its way into my coaching. As I begin my summer study, I’m going to think more about that green belt writing.

  • Carol Varsalona
    Posted at 19:21h, 01 August Reply

    Clare, as adult writers we can question our purpose for writing and adjust our approach. I think that we owe it to our students to help them do the same with their writing. Providing choice, flexibility, and guidance is important if we want our students to become better writers.

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