Sara and I are very proud of our new PD book From Striving to Thriving Writers: Strategies That Jump-Start Writing. And, we are more than humbled that one of our biggest influences on our teaching styles, Stephanie Harvey, has made significant contributions to the book. We feel that our philosophies meld nicely. I have attended quite a few of Steph’s sessions and always feel recharged and ready to get back into the classroom with renewed fervor. I once remarked to her after a session, “You make me want to just grab kids off the street and start teaching them!” Steph deadpanned – “You’ll get arrested if you do.” Good advice Ms. Harvey.
One thing we do believe wholeheartedly is that a successful piece of text begins with a strong pre-write. This is where our graphic organizers (GO Sheets) come into play. Think of them as just another form of note taking before drafting. We’ve reproduced the format of these GO Sheets as downloads as a convenience for teachers – but they are not anything the students could not reproduce on their own.
GO Sheets are NOT worksheets. It has been our experience that once a worksheet is filled in, it is complete. When a GO Sheet is filled in the writer is just beginning. In fact, one of the first revisions we make in many of our frameworks is to discard the helper words of a GO Sheet leaving the research, ideas, and imagery behind for the subsequent versions. Go sheets are disposable once they’ve served their purpose.
We have set up our book with an introduction co-penned by Sara, Stephanie, and me which lays out our approach to teaching writing. We do so by introducing lessons on essential writing elements. What follows are 27 focused lessons that tackle the job of introducing and explaining specific writing concepts in a simple, easy to follow fashion. We, for the most part, do not teach by genre. This resource contains no “realistic fiction” lesson or persuasive essay for instance. Rather we look at the essential elements that go into a piece of well written text.
Sara and I take this from a real-world perspective. We both were writers in the business world before making our careers as author educators. We now have over three decades experience between us working in the classroom with thousands of students all over the planet. We looked at our own writing process and did our best to break it down into teachable modules that we call pre-writing frameworks. Essential elements like, crafting a good simile, understanding metaphor, basic narrative structure, figurative language, setting, objective examples to support a premise, sentence structure, etc.
Our frameworks are not a comprehensive writing curriculum – but they will augment any program that is already in use or will jumpstart a classroom where no all-inclusive program is in place. Think of these frameworks like a basketball practice. One may practice free throws for a bit, then ball handling followed by passing, run a couple pre-set plays all with the goal of being ready for the game itself.
Sara and I are strongly against prescriptive instruction, scripts telling teachers what to say and when to say it, pyramid-schemed literacy agendas and teaching writing in isolation from content area subject matter. We trust teachers to know what they need to help their students become better writers, communicators, and citizens. Our goal is to provide some targeted instruction strategies that will come together, engaging and empowering our students’ voices.
Ready, set GO.