Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On Bad Writing

This morning as I got ready for our day with the Columbus Area Writing Project I was reminded of the hard work we ask students to do every day.  I've appreciated having time to write each day and know this is a habit I need to hold onto after we finish our days in the project.

Knowing the day goes better if I start with a plan before I arrive, I searched for what I wanted to write.  The conversation with myself wasn't going well.

"I've written everything I can think of in the last two weeks," I commiserated.

"How will I think of something?" I whined.

"How many more days do I left?" I wondered.

During the school year, I sit down most every Saturday morning to put words in a space.  Sometimes during the week I manage a few other writing moments, but Saturday is really my writing day.  As I move into summer my writing picks up a bit, but I still choose my moments.  If I am feeling it, I sit down.  If I'm not, I don't.  (I know the problem with this, but I might as well be honest.)

Today, however, I need something to write about.

One of the best things about going through the writing project is I'm being reminded of the hard work we ask students to do every day.



As I got ready, I thought about the pieces I had completed.  Having the time each day makes me write, but it isn't always easy.  I'm sure I have some writing which would have slipped past me without making it to a page if I hadn't been given the time to sit down.  However, I also have a lot of bad writing.  A LOT of bad writing.  In two weeks, I've written a piece or two that has some possibility.  I've managed a sentence or two that might make me pause, but mostly I have a lot of bad writing.

My experience has me thinking about the expectations we have of our students.  Are they realistic?  Do real writers produce nothing but writing that gets better each day?  I doubt it.  I'll bet authors have a lot of bad writing too.  Do we allow students the time for bad writing?  Do we expect every piece to be better than the last one or do we make room for the messiness?  So when the school year begins I'll be thinking a bit more about bad writing and its significance in mining the gems that could become powerful pieces of writing.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Why Digital Writing

"The question is no longer whether we should use technology to teach writing; instead we must focus on the many ways we must use technology to teach writing." - Troy Hicks, Crafting Digital Writing

Lifting Our Voices:  Writing Beyond Our Notebooks 
The room was quiet as participants wandered from space to space surveying writing collections.  Each person had brought their “archaeological dig” to our writing project retreat.  We were each charged to find writing to share with the group from across our lives.  Everything was quiet as we moved around the room and read each other’s pieces.  Each "dig" was filled with childhood reports, paper books made by tiny fingers, journals filled with wondrous words, and collections of handwritten poems.  I was struck by the beauty of the words that surrounded me and the gifts these writers had tucked safely away in closets and drawers.  

As I was laughing over the childhood piece of a friend, one of the participants approached me about the writing in my collection.  “You still are writing a lot.  I wish I was still writing,” she confided.  “It’s been a long time since I just wrote for the joy of it.  I really only write when life requires it.”  I could hear the lament in her voice and could understand her words.  I’ve been where she is.  There have been periods where I didn’t pick up a pencil, periods where I let the busyness of life overtake my schedule, periods where I chose to remain silent. 

Her comment caught me a bit off-guard, however.  Writing has become such a part of my life that I guess I really hadn’t given it much thought lately.  I’ve become accustomed to the time for reflection, the ah-has I discover, the joys, and the struggle.  I write to dabble, to play, to discover.  

For days, her comment stayed with me.  I had stopped by her collection.  I was struck by the natural talent toward writing she had displayed since she was a small child.  Her words flowed effortlessly across the page.  They were full of truths and rhythms.  Yet I had noticed, like other writers in our group, the writing she shared in more recent years had likely been required.  For many the beautiful words, the lessons, the stories to change the world, were tucked away.

The Power of Connection
I looked closely at my own collection of artifacts.  Like others, I had my childhood pieces.  There was the terrible fourth-grade poem that my teacher had planted the suggestion that I might some day be a poet with his encouraging words.  (I’m pretty sure that poem indicated the complete opposite.)  There was the poem asking, Who Shot JR? (that takes you back --- some of you will have to Google the reference), from my middle school years.  Yep, that was worth a laugh.  There were pieces sprinkled across my high school career, and then there was a huge stage of quiet.  Lots of quiet.  I happen to know there was some required writing in those days, but that was about all I carved out of my day.  

As I looked at my collection I noticed the frequency of writing had certainly increased in the last seven years.  Why?  

Digital tools.  


In the last few weeks, I've really had a lot of time to think about the power of connection. It is the connection to communities like the Slice of Life, Poetry Friday, and Choice Literacy. It is the connection to blogs of friends, the #amwriting and #micropoetry Twitter groups, and others who read, interact and support each other in writing. I probably wouldn't still be writing without these communities to make me think, give me pause, and support my writing. It's the writing for something, that has changed my writing life and caused me to slow down to get things down on paper or held in digital spaces. (A few other communities you might like: #Celebratelu with Ruth Ayres, Teachers Write 2016, #CLMOOC Connected Learning Mooc...please share others in comments.)

Being digital has shifted my writing.

Why Digital Writing
I often find myself thinking intentionally about questions such as these:  
  • What does it mean to write digitally?  
  • How is it different from other mediums for composing?  
  • What are its benefits?  
  • How is digital writing like writing in other mediums?  
  • Why is it important to provide digital writing opportunities for young literacy learners?
There have been a lot of things happening that have put thinking about digital writing at the top of my list:  work on a digital literacy cooperative doc, conversations around digital literacy with #cyberPD, questions from friends regarding digital writing, and work with #CLMOOC.  

I suppose my participation in digital writing communities has helped me to see the many benefits of writing digitally.  In these years, I have been writing more in digital pieces.  The more I've written, the more I've realized my students need these same opportunities.  There are benefits of writing digitally:

Most of all, digital writing gives our words a space reach out into the world.  It gives us the opportunity to see life from other perspectives, to think about things in new ways, to be affected by the stories and wondrous words of others.  

I'm hoping that before our time in Central Ohio Writing Project is over that some of the other writers in the group find their places to share their stories to let their words spill out of their notebooks.  Digital writing gives voice to each person now. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The 2016 #cyberPD Book Is....


It took some time for Laura Komos, Michelle Nero and I to select the title for this year's #cyberPD virtual book talk.   We spent much time pouring over book stacks in the #cyberPD Google Community.   We went back and forth for days on Voxer.  There were times I wasn't sure we were going to be able to narrow to one title.  As many of you have discovered, there are many new great books for professional reading that have recently been released (my stack for this summer is here).  #goodproblems

It's never easy to choose a book for the event.  We always try to select a book which will reach a wide range of educators, sustain thoughtful conversation, and help us grow in the work we do with children.  So, you're wondering, what's the title?

#1:  The book was in a lot of stacks posted in the Google Community.

#2:  I lost a bet with Mandy Robek (I'll be buying her ice-cream...she'll be buying a book):

Nope --- it's not in Mandy's stack.

#3:  The person who wrote the forward for the book was one of our authors last year and is the new NCTE Vice President (Yay!!!!).

#4:  The book has a popular video series.

Yep, you've probably guessed it by now.  This year's #cyberPD title will be DIY Literacy by Kate and Maggie Roberts.  We think this book will speak to educators across grade levels and subject expertise.  We think it will support our summer community learning conversations...and we hope it will help us to envision possibilities for improving the work we do with children in the upcoming school year.  

So....we're hoping you'll join us for July's 6th Annual #cyberPD Event.  The #cyberPD community is now nearly 200 strong.  The conversation will take place across July.  Each week participants will read the featured chapters, share a reflection in the Google Community (reflect directly in the community, link personal blogs, or share other creations that demonstrate understanding...we're flexible), and finally comment on other community members' reflections.  

Week of July 3rd:  Chapters 1-2 & Bonus
Week of July 10th:  Chapters 3-4
Week of July 17th:  Chapters 5-6
Week of July 24th:  Final Twitter Chat

**Last year we added a weekly Twitter chat for participants.  This was a popular addition for many of our participants so we will continue to host a weekly chat for participants who prefer a little real-time conversation.   Stay tuned.   

We're hoping you'll join us for our global professional book talk.  It's sure to be fun!

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