In this blog post, Lucy Fidler (@misslkfidler13) discusses her writing process and how it is influenced by her writer-identity. She then reflects on her writing process as a writer-teacher and how it affects how she teaches her young apprentice writers. Enjoy!
For as long as I can remember I have been an avid lover of books, reading and writing and I have always dreamed of writing a book of my own. Finally, this is an adventure I have thrown myself into and as a writer-teacher. This has led me to consider how I teach writing in my classroom. Is there anything I have learnt about myself, as a writer, that can translate into my teaching practice?
I have always been an advocate of individuals investigating their reading identity in order to foster a love of reading. By reading identity, I am referring to the habits that we may have that makes reading enjoyable to us. Are you someone who likes to read in bed? Do you enjoy horror stories? Are you the person who reads the first and last chapter before the rest of the book? Do you prefer to read aloud? By forming a reading identity, reading for pleasure can come more naturally.
It is my belief that this philosophy is not always applied to writing. The writing identities that we tend to refer to are the ‘reluctant writer’, the ‘greater depth writer’ and the writer who scatterguns commas throughout their work. Rather than thinking about the process learners go through as a writer, should we consider who they are as a writer in order to get the most out of them? After many hours of contemplation, I have dissected what my identity as a writer is and have come to the conclusion that I am a somewhat paradoxical mix of a whimsical daydreamer and a meticulously strategic planner. That is about as clear as mud, I know. But bear with me and you will see what I am wittering about – hopefully.
Before I begin, I do want to put a little disclaimer out there that I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I am at the beginning of a very long and arduous journey into writing but, this is what I have discovered about myself so far and my thoughts on whether our learners are given the best opportunities in the classroom.
The way in which I write can be broken down into two stages; prior to writing and whilst writing. To avoid burdening you with a dissertation I am going to discuss my writing process in regards to the ‘prior to writing’ stage.
There are three facets to this stage for me; thinker, talker, planner.
By nature, I spend a lot of time in my own head. It has taken countless hours of silent contemplation in order for me to finally settle on an idea for a book. It has taken even more thinking time for me to think about how to execute my idea. There have been numerous occasions when I have sat down to ‘write’ and my partner has turned to me to point out I have been sat for an awfully long time and have written the grand total of absolutely nothing! Little does he know that I may have that vacant look on my face but my little brain cells are sparking and ideas are being generated thick and fast. Often, I have too many ideas, so I need that thinking time to clarify what road I am venturing down in regards to my story.
Boy do I talk, a lot! After settling on the final idea for my book, I talked (and I am still talking) to anyone who pretends to listen to me. My partner, mum, dad, three sisters, second cousin twice removed, dog – you get the picture- have all had their ears talked off about what I am writing and my various ideas. More than talking to other people, I talk to myself. This is something I have always done whilst writing, whether it be a short story at school, a dissertation or this book. I spend hours vocalising an inner monologue, I am doing it right now. Talking is really important for me to be able to ensure my thoughts are ordered and that my writing embodies whatever it is that I want to say.
This is where the whimsical side of me meets the ordered aspect of my writing identity. I cannot move into being the planner without having been the thinker or the talker or I would have nothing to write. For me to be efficient in any area of my life, I have to have a plan. I need to know what is happening, where it is happening, when it is happening and who is going to be there when it happens or my brain explodes. This also translates into my writing. I need a plan to keep the flightiness in check or goodness knows what I would end up with. More likely than not, without a plan, my writing would be a confusing mess.
What About Teaching Writing?
So, you’ve all gotten to know part of my writing identity and my process but what about our learners? Could they benefit from becoming thinkers, talkers and planners and is that something that can be nurtured within a classroom? In some respects, I believe that any quality teaching of writing has to consider these things to produce confident writers. However, we work within a curriculum and a system that may not always allow us to put aside the time to really delve in to these areas. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could give our learners time to think and discuss what they are going to write without feeling the pressure of time constraints? But maybe that is not the reality in which we teach? When a learner gets to Year 6 with a handful of top-quality writing and it gets moderated, we wouldn’t have enough evidence. Can you imagine saying to an external moderator ‘but they really thought about it?’ This is a problem.
And if they have not had the thinking and talking time how can they plan? Imagine the scenario, your class are writing a short story. You have read various short stories, read and discussed an exemplar, considered the audience, purpose and effect for their own and generated a success criteria and then you hand them a plan. We generally tend to give learners a lesson to plan their story and then have a minor cardiac episode when they cannot generate any ideas. But have we given them enough time to think and talk? Have we given them dedicated time to generate ideas or have we skipped a process? It took me the best part of a year to settle on an idea for my book. I have the audacity to ask a child to do it in less than 45 minutes!
As I have said, I believe the problem is a systematic one that has been cultivated by external influences outside of our own schools. We would all love to give learners all the time in the world to consider and discuss what they are going to write but we just don’t have that luxury. However, it may be worth our time to snatch those moments where we can and you never know where it might lead…
If you liked this blog-post, you may also like this post from Matthew Lane here
*If you’re a writer-teacher and you enjoyed this blog-post maybe would like to write one yourself. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org*