Writing, love it or hate it, has become central to the Language Arts curriculum and there are some very good reasons for its dominance in current teaching expectations. Writing is an advanced form of thinking and a window into the mind. It is one of few creative processes to be directly taught. And, since writing is a creative process, the honed instructional principles behind the teaching of writing can be useful for other creative processes.
Students are introduced early and often to “The Writing Process.” Frequently it is presented as a workshop model of teaching, but the goal is to get students to follow certain steps: brainstorming, drafting or writing, revising, editing and publishing. Each of these steps is supported by any number of graphic organizers or editing checklists to help students get used to the steps in the process. This same process also is individually useful by providing a window into how one thinks or how one organizes ideas and into how one creates or innovates.
The most frequent instances of writing, one of the most compelling reasons to put pen to paper, is the writing of lists. A common list can show if a person is thinking in a linear fashion about the thing they are writing a list about (like a to-do list), or if they are taking the matter as a spatial issue better attended to by moving through the list items in a certain way (grocery items or errands to run). The list amounts to some brainstorming and writing; if a person takes a thrown together list of grocery items and rewrites it so that products are grouped together based on some logic (grouping similar items, laying out the list based on the store lay-out), then the list has been effectively revised, and grocery shopping will be easier.
That’s the beauty of the process, each step makes the written product better. A list that works is a good thing. The college application essay that nails it is a great thing. And, this is why, creating written expression – an expression of ideas and possibilities – deserves a full-blown process, which takes the time to improve it, clarify it and just make it better. And so too, with any good idea, if given some time to percolate, bear some revision, some editorial decisions, it will become a better idea, if not a true innovation.
Creativity is interesting and not impossible to teach. Kids need to know that when they are asked to write, or choose to write, they are using their mind in a fascinatingly abstract way which they should take some time to explore. Ideas and images within the mind have the opportunity to get out there, through the not-so-simple act of putting words on a page. However, it is natural, and helping a student find ways that they enjoy writing can be a big step in opening the door to their creative and generative abilities.
One key to effectively getting across to kids the importance of these steps of the writing process, or any creative process, is to consider that no two brains will process the same thing in the exact same way. Some kids may write, then brainstorm, then write more. Others may write and revise continually. Some students may do well with persuasive writing, others may prefer reflective writing, and yet others will go in for creative writing. Each preference will demonstrate a cognitive strength which should be fostered. Any step that seems unpleasant probably suggests an area where some brain-training may make the difference between the written assignment that is done and the written assignment that nails it.
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