This is an exciting time of the year.
In fact, this week is exciting.
It is the “Pre” week to PiBoIdMo which stands for
Picture Book Idea Month.
This is a month hosted by children’s author Tara Lazar where picture book writers challenge themselves to come up with 30 ideas for 30 picture books in the month of November.
Why am I so excited about this?
Because for me, this is one of the best parts of writing.
No red pens.
No grammar, mechanics, or usage.
No spel chek. :)
Messy, messy, messy!
It’s very freeing.
To let your mind wander.
To spend time discovering.
Discovering…like when you were a child digging in the dirt in your back yard, or the sand at the beach. And then finding something you weren’t even looking for.
And I love that Tara has created this month.
I remember hearing about NaNoWriMo and thinking ugh…I’d fail on day one. I’d need NaNoIdOrPlOuYear (National Novel Idea Organizing Planning and Outlining Year -an entire year to figure out what I was going to say in that month I was supposed to be writing the actual novel. )
But you’re giving me an entire month of just discovering ideas?
I Love You Tara! You’d make a great elementary teacher!
I’ve been on a soap box for a while now about what it takes to make kids great writers.
I’m not a genius, but I discovered this as a child.
When in class, the teacher would say “go” and I would get in trouble at the end of class for having nothing written except random notes, ideas, words, or pictures, when everyone else had completed a perfect five paragraph first draft.
I discovered this as an adult writer when I spent weeks and weeks planning, note-carding, researching, and outlining my ideas for a 30 page research paper and then found out that the actual writing only look me less than two days.
And I rediscovered this as a teacher when my own students were begging to write during recess simply because I had given them the time and resources to discover what it was they wanted and had to say.
People will often ask me, "How do we get kids to be good writers? How do we get them to not hate writing?"
I’m sorry to tell you America, but most kids don’t hate writing.
This is what they hate:
Student: Um, what? Teacher what if I don’t have a pet?
I’m sorry, but everything doesn’t fit into a 4 square.
Disclaimer: I am not claiming to be a 4 square hater. It can be an effective means of organizing one’s writing.
But , it is not a magical box that's a cure-all for writers. And it is not a writing “program.” When a graphic organizer is misused, it becomes a writer squasher.
Pre-writing and Brainstorming should not mean writing all my sentences completely into 4 squares.
And then recopying those sentences onto a sheet of paper should not be called a first draft.
And then recopying that onto a clean sheet of paper (after all the misspelled words have been slashed with red ink by a teacher a.k.a. revising) should not be called a final draft.
It should be called: How to Make a Kid Hate Writing.
You know what does make a kid become a great writer? (Um, besides actually studying the craft of writing?)
The first step is to give them time to discover what it is they want to say.
The next step is to give them time to figure out that they actually do have something to say.
And the final step is to spend an insane amount of time brainstorming ideas. (You know, like an entire month.)
Brainstorming stories, pictures, and thoughts without having to write them in complete sentences. Without having to spell every word correctly. Without making sure their handwriting fits perfectly on the lines and is in perfect print or cursive or whatever. Without the need to be perfect (all the time.)
Because, as adults, how would we react if everything new we were learning, had to be performed on the spot, for the first time, with perfection, every time?
We Would Hate It.
We Would Quit!
So my point?
There simply isn’t enough time dedicated to allowing kids to discover who they are as writers and what they want to say.
Wanna make them good writers? Give them the time to discover.
Wanna make them hate writing? Well, we don’t want to go down that road again, do we?
Let's take a lesson from Tara and PiBoIdMo. Take an entire month just to find out what it is you have to say.
Discover with words, pictures, thoughts, snippets, ideas. And don't worry about shoving them all neatly into 4 squares (or wherever.) Be Messy! Let your students be messy!
Bring it on PiBoIdMo! I can't wait to start discovering.
I'm really excited.
10/29/2013 03:22:22 am
Love this post!
10/29/2013 04:45:35 am
Thanks Tara! So glad you liked it. And I'm so happy that you are spreading the "idea" knowledge with students as young as first and second grades!!!!
10/29/2013 04:46:43 am
Wonderful post, Mandy! And Tara - I wish Elizabeth the Eraser could spend some time at my house erasing some of my mess!
10/29/2013 05:30:14 am
I have a colleague (hence the generic name I'm posting with) who swears by Four Square and has for years. Her students' writing is painfully formulaic, a.k.a. BOR-ing! So when I read your post I was practically crying with glee. You are so right that kids need the freedom of choice and lots of time to write from their hearts
10/29/2013 05:55:30 am
It seems that the creative process always gets the short end. People make a lot of noise about its importance, but when it comes right down to it, never allow the time or the patience to let it bubble. Thanks for your efforts, Mandy! (And thanks, Tara, for PiBoIdMo).
10/29/2013 11:42:29 am
I love this post! As a first grade teacher, a writer, and a PiBoIdMo lover, I agree 100%! Thanks so much for sharing!
10/29/2013 11:56:56 am
Brilliant! I wish you could present this to all elementary principals and teachers in the country. You are so right on!
10/29/2013 12:53:49 pm
Love this post. The freedom to discover and enjoy writing is not something tests can measure, and yet kids who love to write will just naturally do better on tests.
10/29/2013 03:49:22 pm
Enjoyed your post, Mandy! A high schooler we carpool home was complaining about his Lit&Comp (Writing Class) teacher today. Then he said,"she's ruined writing for me!" How sad is that? I'm going to try to revive him. I'll use your input listed above.Thanks!
Great post! I too need to write down lots and lots of ideas before I start writing, and it has to be on paper not on the computer, for me. I homeschool my younger kids and just encourage them to write whatever they like! My daughter loves writing and she makes the funniest things, such as "nurse's handbook" and "how to be a spy". It makes me so happy to watch her put her ideas down on paper and not worry about spelling or perfection. Totally agree with what you've written.
11/3/2014 08:49:45 am
You're SPOT ON about what you said about why kids hate writing. It's not that they hate writing... it's the way that writing has been taught. Your ideas for getting them to love it are perfect. Can't wait to share this with my PLN. Thanks for this inspiring piece!
11/3/2014 10:48:40 am
Great post! You echo much of what I tell people: students don't hate writing! They need to find it meaningful and fun!
11/4/2014 10:55:19 am
I just gave you a standing ovation. In my kitchen.
11/5/2014 06:03:50 am
Love this post! I think adults can take the lessons to heart, too. Thank you for sharing the writing prompts.
11/8/2014 11:12:53 am
Love rediscovering this post. I think I vaguely remember it. But you are absolutely right ...your points were right on. And those are some HUGE toothpicks, Mandy...did you climb a beanstalk to find those?
11/11/2014 10:45:38 am
Thanks everyone! Stacey- feel free to share. Dana- how wonderful! A standing ovation? :)
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We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break