If you are like me, when you put something down, you:
- put it down with the intent of forgetting about it until you surprise yourself into seeing it again.
- put it down in a specific place every time so as not to forget it.
- put it down so as to empty your pockets and rid yourself of the burden of bulge.
- put it down to remind yourself of the pain of holding it.
- put it down to evoke a feeling and inspire you to carry things again.
Transparency is what I aim for in education. I try to make the writing process as transparent as possible because it is in the journey of writing that we attain better writers, but it is in the process of reading the product where we sharpen our understanding of the shape of writing. For this reason, I use “Dear Reader” Letters (inspired by by graduate school professor of “Teachers as Writers” — thanks…) for students to also include their thought process as the writing. Like Mathematics teachers ask for students to show their work, I, too, provide prompts for students to reflect on their required writing.
Typically, the questions regard: revision and the choices they had to make, a summary of the main idea of their paper “in their own language” about the length of a tweet, whom did they picture as their audience, and a description of the first three stages of writing process (brainstorming, pre-writing, and drafting) as it worked on them. These “Dear Reader” Letters usually end up being more thoughtful and more evocative than the assignment, and they give me food-for-thought on techniques and materials to improve their writing much better than a prescribed curriculum can. In effect, these “Dear Reader” Letters become the quantitative data points to track the “written” journey and development of my students.
Other Musings: Two books I have found to be very helpful for me to explore the writing process with students are Bird by Bird and Writing True. The first one provides a “Getting Started” jumping point with a zen-like approach, and the latter is a manifestation of writing process, not only to the bone, but to the marrow. They are the micro and the macro of my writing class, the alpha and the omega. Of course, there are others, but these are typically my go-to.