The act of writing is something that is extremely important to me. I have a degree in creative writing, I have had the good luck to have had my writing published in a couple of places, and I continue to work towards completing a novel. The practice of writing is something I take very seriously, that I care deeply about, that I consider to be of great value, and that I very nearly worship the craft of.
All those things said, the act of writing is one of the hardest things there is to do. There are few things more frightening or paralyzing than a blank page. The practice of generating an idea, pursuing a the thought through to its conclusion in an orderly fashion and producing the words needed to get there on the page is a skill that does not come easily, that must be worked at, and that must be taught; it is not innate to anyone.
The act, however, is almost uniquely suited to constructive thought. The way one needs to organize one’s thoughts in order to produce a piece of writing is an exercise in itself, and I can see how it would be spectacularly valuable to the process of understanding a content area.
I recall information that I learned in the 6th grade while preparing a paper about spiders that is still there in my memory banks. The simple act of transferring the ideas to paper were supremely valuable in helping me retain them.
I will be honest, I do not know if that report made me a better reader, thinker, or student, but I sure know that the organs spiders use to produce silk are called “spinnerettes.”
Today’s lessons connected very well with the process of writing I learned in my writing undergrad. Particularly on the important places in the process of revision and editing and the very important difference between the two, something that people often do not grasp, and that with the help of spell-check and the delete button are almost incapable of separating.
Revision has nothing whatsoever to do with spelling, punctuation, grammar, or capital letters. That’s the editing process. Revision is entirely about the clarity of ideas, the specificity of words, and the structure of paragraphs and sentences. It is absolutely the best place to engage students in collaborative practice in the writing process. Writing is hugely solitary and often difficult to pursue collaborative and social goals, pedagogy, and development. Revision, however, is almost necessarily social. Writing must be turned over to peers and the potential audience for feedback, advice, and workshopping in order to tighten and improve the language. It is one of the steps in the process where teachers should, I think, spend a huge amount of time on specific instruction and allow the students to engage in practice over and over and over again.