Thursday, April 9, 2009

Writing: Publication is not the end of the process

"What we do in school doesn't have much of an impact on the world of writing that's going on around us." --Kathleen Blake Yancey

Have you read Kathleen Blake Yancey's report for the National Council of Teachers of English on Writing in the 21st Century? The report highlights the challenges of writing in the 21st Century: developing new models of writing, designing a new curriculum supporting those models, and creating models for teaching that curriculum.

I had an opportunity to listen to an interview with Yancey on the site Powerful Learning Practice . Yancey indicates that teenagers claim they don't write or like to write in school, but they don't see their writing outside of school as writing. They see it as communicating, not writing, when they are blogging and texting. Yancey asserts that in the past, writing has been dominated by assessment. Writing also doesn't enjoy the same cultural support that reading has enjoyed.

So my question is what does it mean to be a writer in the 21st Century?

I have always held the assertion that to be a good teacher of writing you must be a writer. When I was still in the language arts classroom, I would journal with my kids everyday. I wrote some of the best stuff those few years in the seventh grade classroom. But writing is different for our students now. While they don't call it writing -- texting and blogging -- they are still putting the written word out there online. Should teachers be network and social writers? And if they are, do teachers even consider that real writing?

How do we teach kids to be empowered writers? Kids love writing to someone that isn't a teacher, even a trusted adult, according to Yancey. She shared a story where students' writing was given to the local civic group, a partner for the school. When the members read the students' writing, they wanted to write them back. The act of reading became an act of writing. Should we encourage kids to publish more of their ideas and writings on the web in order to have other read and respond?

The model used to be that we filtered information and then we wrote to publish our writing. Today publication is not the end of the process: the conversation continues about the writing, or published work, thus the learning continues.

Write on!

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