Angela Stockman, 2015
Many writers need to move, and they need their writing to move as well. They need to write out of their seats and on their feet, spreading their ideas across whiteboards and tables, lifting pieces of them up with their hands, cutting them apart, randomizing them, and tacking them into new and completely unpredictable forms.
These writers need access to diverse tools and resources– far more than paper, laptops, and iPads. They build their stories using blocks and boards. They blend plot lines using sticky notes and grids. It’s not enough for these writers to study mentor texts. They need to tear them apart–physically. They need to use their hands to play with other peoples’ writing, and they need to tinker with their own in order to become adept.
I’ve learned to listen when my students tell me that they can’t write and don’t want to. This used to be hard to hear when I was a young teacher and thought it was my job to convince them otherwise. Experience makes better listeners of us all, though. I used to think that I knew what writing was and how to teach it well, until I stopped teaching long enough to become a learner. I began by inviting my students to write whatever they wanted, using the tools that suited them best.
Then, I started paying attention.
Time and again, assessing my students’ behavior validated what every resistant writer has ever suggested: writing isn’t something that everyone can do, but it is something that most people can make, given the right conditions. Think of this “making” as a writing manifesto–a commitment to making something out of nothing.
Making writing requires a certain kind of space, a certain kind of culture, and just right tools.
Something else I’ve learned: technology feeds the maker, but making isn’t about technology. As my friend Linda reminded me this weekend:
Making is a mindset.
Making writing is about pursuing outcomes in ways that support writers who need to move, build, mix, tinker, blend, sculpt, shoot, smear, and tack their ideas and their words together. Physically. Making writing is about challenging individuals to identify and use the materials and processes they need to in order to test things out, work toward their own goals and meet agreed upon learning targets, too.
It’s about accessing the voices of those that we serve and listening hard.
It’s about letting them pursue their dreams their way rather than allowing our confirmation bias to drive instruction.
The best lessons of my career were learned this way, thanks to the kids and teachers I get to work with at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio.
Want to learn more? This is our make writing manifesto.
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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.