Why Writing is Important
“How can I know what I think until I see what I say.” – E. M. Forster
After being back in the classroom after sixteen years in administration, I find it both humorous and telling that I begin each year at Meet the Teacher Night, much like I did years ago, asking my kids and parents if they would like to hear the good news or bad news first. Now I know that this is a questionable beginning to my thoughts on the importance of writing, but my answers have never wavered, nor my adherence to what I believe is sound – that writing is thinking on paper and expecting and supporting the development of that thinking is crucial for all in the teaching profession. You see, my answers to both the good news/bad news question are the same…I don’t use worksheets. At first the kids celebrate…I mean, who likes worksheets? However, I soon let them know that they will have to “show me their knowing,” and with those words, we begin a yearly journey of uncovering the writer in all my students.
So where did this belief, this pedagogy come from? What research supports the notion that writing is a mode of knowing, not just an activity that is expected in the English/Language Arts classroom? I have been blessed to receive the initial New Jersey Writing Project/Abydos training and then the more in depth process of becoming a writing teacher trainer. We read the research, put the research into practice and, after over 32 years with Abydos, know without a shadow of a doubt the power of writing as a tool for knowing. The processes of writing are not linear, but rather recursive in nature, and each writer undergoes their own distinct process. We no longer espouse the product paradigm where the task was given on a Monday and the final draft due on Friday. We also know that writing across and in all curriculum areas is crucial for students to truly understand the concepts taught. Simply put, writing is a mode of knowing.
How can parents help young writers? How can we encourage writing in authentic and engaging ways? Writing should be done throughout the day, from simple lists (grocery lists to books you want to read) to letters written to grandparents and other family members. In girl’s chapel this week, Mrs. Bozeman shared stories of her Maw Maw, and one such story centered on her great cooking ability. One year her grandmother wrote down all her favorite recipes by hand and gave them to Kandy. What a precious memory that is! I, too, have some handwritten recipes from my grandmothers and those are truly treasured possessions. For what do we have of our loved ones other than the memories we shared and the words they wrote?
We can also model prayer journaling or gratitude journals. Consider taking the time to write yourself and share your thoughts, dreams, lists, stories, and prayers with your child. Who knows…we may have a budding author or a scientist in our midst, and what better way to help them grow in their thinking and communicating…let’s get them writing!