The more I delve into my inquiry, the more I feel that we need to change our approach on the way we teach writing. I feel we are stuck too much with the teaching of the conventions of writing rather than making it a joyous task where the students feel intrinsically motivated to write.
Last week talking to Jannie Van Hees confirmed my notion. Jannie modelled for me in my class. It was great to watch her and notice her not using any learning intention but using talk and lots of talk to develop vocabulary. She provided multiple opportunities for students to interact with one another in a non threatening, purposeful and enriching ways. The students dominated the talk and then wrote some good meaningful sentences about the topic. They were motivated and engaged and they also learnt new words to convey their ideas.
Learning Intentions isolate the whole process of writing. We get stuck in teaching capital letters or full stops or inserting describing words or adding detail. It is more important for students to understand that there is a purpose for writing and that is conveying their ideas and their thoughts to people who do not know about the topic you are writing on. It is a way of communication and it needs to be clear and meaningful, just like talking needs to be meaningful for the listener to understand. What I mean is that the focus should shift from just putting full stops in the correct places to creating a captivating piece of writing. Things like punctuation can be subtly taught and reminded of during the process of writing.
The other question that arises is...
Do our students understand some of the learning intentions? For example - WALT write in detail? what does this mean to them? I explored a lot over this learning intention for the past few weeks and found out that my children actually do not know what they need to do when they have to write in detail. They started giving me recounts that were three pages long, as they thought that detail meant a long piece of writing. They were super boring to read as they lacked the purpose. There was no soul or depth to their writing. They were monotonous and reading and analysing them was painful. How come one after another, each sample was just a narration of sequence of activities that they had experienced?
So the question that arose was
What is it that we are not doing?
I feel we are not providing opportunities for the development of spoken forms of language as a bridge to more academic language. For this to happen we need to look at the quality of dialogue that children are engaged in.
They need to be pushed to produce more comprehendible, coherent and grammatically improved discourses. And all this needs to be done without making it a tedious activity.
How will I do this?
I will be choosing interesting authentic topics for students to write everyday. I would be focussing a lot on language output. This would be done by extending them from the known to the new. My class would be a communicative class where students would be encouraged to process the language and deliver it in a more comprehendible way. I would be making more stronger links to reading, talking and writing.
In doing so, I know I will need to be more prepared by mindfully going through my teaching process before I actually teach my students. I will need to do this a number of times till it is kind of fossilised into my practice. It is work but it is exciting!