Why do we write? This has been the question circling my mind ever since I hopped onto a zoom link to chat with a 6th grader in my feedback group. I got that little burst of joy that comes from a one-on-one meet, and we quickly began by chatting about school, life, and her hopes for spring break. She talked about wanting to see friends but being unsure of what all of that would look like. She talked about reading and being lonely. She talked about what was in her heart and on her mind. And at some point, we moved on to her writing life.
“So, tell me what you’re working on,” I said to begin our feedback conversation. “What are you trying to do in your writing?”
For the next few moments, she explained her class’s study of some research writing. With just a few clicks, my eyes were on her shared screen and I was looking at her assignment. I listened as she walked me through the work. On top of the page lay the prompt followed by directions on how to reword the prompt as the claim. Under that direction, the page became littered with boxes that broke down the writing sentence by sentence and led the students through exactly what to say. Color-coded paragraphs broken into a formula that left little room for thought or voice.
Staring at that page, the question that came to mind was, Why do we write? I knew my answer wasn’t so that we could fill in the boxes or color-code paragraphs into the false structure of- topic sentence, supporting details, and conclusion…but what was it? I decided to dig into that question myself.
- to uncover personal truths
- to memorialize moments of change
- to celebrate love and friendship
- to realize new ideas
- to lament over disconnection and hurt
- to explore humanity’s relationship with nature
- to teach others about our impacts/impressions on the world
- to heal
I write because writing helps me understand myself, others, and our shared world. If I am forced to write about a topic, told what to think and how to support it, and then told how every sentence has to fall on the page, I am not writing. I am not able to uncover, memorialize, celebrate, realize, lament, explore, teach, or heal.
Scaffolds are important. We’re all searching for the tools that will allow our students to try something new or find success. Sometimes those tools offer a structure, but when we go too far in our efforts to support, we may be wiping away true writing. In this series, we will explore how to fold scaffolds into our teaching through changing up components, offering strategies, and setting up peer based supports that will help students find success without writing for them.
Look for next week’s post on adding scaffolds of support through sharing the pen.