The current version of my instructional practices, philosophies, and beliefs was born a couple of years ago. Word spread that our new curriculum coordinator was a “workshop” guy and, coincidentally, I was in a place where change was on my mind.
Traditional “drill and kill” methods heavily supplemented with canonical whole class novels and their hip-tied reading guides left me unfulfilled in my “teacher feels” and I knew there had to be a better way.
Serendipity through reader’s/writer’s workshop…
Much of the credit for the strengthening of my instructional practice can be attributed to the people I’ve met who provided me the opportunity to explore and improve my craft. Teaching next to brilliant people and participating in our Literacy Institute are invaluable experiences. Much of my improvement can be traced to those teachable moments. Other sources of wisdom came in the form of “Hey, have you read anything by [insert important name here]?”
That spring, many quiet lunch periods were spent hunkered over a professional text, sweating from having just walked off the football field, highlighting brilliant thoughts, taking notes, absorbing as much knowledge as I possibly could.
Lucky for me, one of the first places I visited was Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson.
Our upcoming (and ongoing) revising and editing emphasis leads me back into one of my favorite books over and over. I just can’t stay away from the wisdom contained in this book and the lessons it possesses beyond writing instruction. This book outlines a path for exploring any skill that students need, and I found that the wisdom contained there-in reaches across the areas of emphasis in our workshop.
I love so much about this book. Not just the content, but the craft, as well, is brilliant. Anderson breaks the teaching cycle down into nine parts, and, while at first wrapping my head around that many ideas felt daunting, eventually, this book helped polish my teaching methods to a point where I felt very comfortable.
The idea that I need to “invite” my students to join the process of editing is, I think, what this book is really about. This shift in focus, from teacher to student, is one that proves difficult for many teachers, myself included. Anderson explains, “I invite students to notice, to read like writers, to come into the world of editing – a friendly place rather than a punishing place, a creational facility rather than a correctional one.”
This right there!!! That sentiment that we can let the students tell us where they are with their understanding and where they need support is what left me gobsmacked.
Anderson repeats this idea over an over using several editing lessons. He takes the reader through the instruction of serial commas, appositives, paragraphs and dialogue. We learn about using colons, apostrophes, and several other skills. But really, we learn that giving students the space and encouragement to explore their own learning is the best way we can build writers.
He breaks the process down into nine parts and they are so fully explained that even a football coach like me can employ them in a writing workshop. They are:
- Invitation to Notice
- Invitation to Imitate
- Invitation to Celebrate
- Invitation to Collect
- Invitation to Write
- Invitation to Combine
- Invitation to Edit
- Extending the Invitation
- Open Invitation
The first part, invitation to notice, provides us the opportunity for formative assessment right at the jump, and saves time in the lesson cycle. Too often, our assessment focuses on where they are in their learning at the end of the lesson and not on the growth in their understanding. How can I optimize my instruction if I don’t measure how far they move in the time we work together? I can’t, and if I don’t, then I’m just throwing out lessons and moving through lesson cycles robotically without any opportunity for the students’ powerful voices to be heard. Also, if I allow them to show me what they notice, I might learn something from them. A scary thought.
The second part, invitation to imitate, teaches the writers to hang their own ideas on someone else’s frame. I’m an old man and, more than ever before, I look at texts as mentors not just in content, but in craft. Our students need that experience as well. If we show them that mentors are everywhere, we open them up to worlds outside the four edges of a text and the four walls of our classroom. So much of what we learn about life comes from the people we see and hear. That sentiment should inform our writing instruction as well.
The third part, invitation to celebrate, is one I didn’t understand well, even after reading this book. This one required a great deal of thinking for me to fully understand its importance. Anderson makes it clear that correcting the writing of our students doesn’t make them better writers. He tells us, “In fact, correction may even stifle, crush and suffocate celebration” (32). Instead of tearing our writers down, we should share in the joy of the successful writing experience.
Just those first three moves are incredibly important in our work. I’ll write about the next three parts in two weeks. Until then…
Charles Moore is blown away by how quickly the students in his classroom jumped back into their routines this semester and their joy in learning about reading and writing together. He loves seeing their faces scrunched as they struggle through revising with purpose. He loves this work and is massively thankful that he has the opportunity to share in the growth his students are experiencing.