Diving into the Writing Process!
This term, at ‘The Writer’s Club’, I really wanted the kids to dive into a single writing project and become fully immersed in the writing process – from start to finish. So our program involved creating an action packed adventure story where the main character sets out on a journey to fulfill a quest of some kind. In our first four, skill based workshops, each child developed a detailed setting, created a character, provided a reason for the quest and even invented a magical object to help their hero or heroine on their way. The ideas were so fresh and original, I was literally blown away. But this week, The Writer’s Club was even more magical than ever. Armed with their maps, character profiles and narrative plans, the kids have finally set off into the world of fiction. There was this tremendous energy in the room as pencils scraped across paper and characters finally came to life before our eyes. We were, as they say, ‘in the zone’ and boy it felt good.
It made me all nostalgic for the nineties and a program we knew then, as ‘Process Writing’. Once a day, my class would take out their books and write stories. We didn’t refer to them as narratives – just stories. Those stories would then be edited and published into books and my writing workshops would come directly from what the children needed to know next. A student’s spelling list came from their writing. Individual conferencing was the cornerstone of the writing program. I met with children regularly to see where they were heading and what I could do for them next. I loved meeting with them and getting lost inside their stories. Writing for the pure fun of it! It sounds fanciful doesn’t it? But it was hard work for teachers to plan a writing program with each individual child in mind. It required immense organisation and true commitment to run smoothly. I shared my writing too, so I really had to put myself on the line. I didn’t have a family then and often finished the school day well after dark. (As I’m sure many teachers still do today!) But I loved every minute of those writing sessions. Even the times when kids were procrastinating. It made the times when they were lost in the moment, even sweeter. At a professional development workshop I was running recently, a young girl in her twenties, came up to me in the second session with some of her handcrafted self published books. She had written them in primary school and kept them all this time. Bound with coloured bookmaker’s tape and beautifully illustrated, the stories were wonderfully told. Seeing those books made me want to travel back in time and work out what went wrong. Why did we give up on the process of writing to focus so heavily on the end product? And is it too late to turn back time?