Planning with the Writer in Mind
Planning for writing shouldn’t begin by writing mini-lessons.
We must resist scouring the Internet as our first action,
or plucking lessons or strategies from professional books,
before soaking in the vista of our students’ written acts,
across the landscape of conference and observational
notes that tell us the story of their writing lives.
Planning begins after our writers initially feel their way into a genre--
after they have loitered awhile hearing the musical notes of poetry,
after they have marinated in the stories of characters transforming in texts,
after they have studied the information that teaches them something new,
or considered the alternative viewpoints of the opposition.
Planning begins after they have read texts, talked about the genres,
And dipped their toes into first drafts.
Planning begins as we talk with writers,
While they grind away at their process,
Crafting texts for audiences and purposes they imagine in their heads.
Planning begins as we listen to writers,
When they share their work aloud with us and others,
And direct the feedback they need from readers.
We must resist the tempting fruit that hangs from scripted mini-lesson trees,
That dangles before us on pinned-up Pinterest pages,
That pleads to be picked from packaged programs--
Forbidden fruit that teacher- and writer-proofs our instruction.
That fruit sure looks good sometimes, but boy is it bitter.
Planning doesn’t begin with the standards or programs or curriculum maps
that chart the course for learning,
without consideration for the human beings,
writing away in the classroom.
Plans emerge from writers.
The writers are the curriculum.
And we need to remember this if we’re going to make a difference
in their writing lives.
3/16/2017 09:11:44 pm
So well said! "The writers are the curriculum." An important message for all teachers of writing. Thanks!
3/16/2017 09:21:11 pm
Thank you so much for reminding me about who (not what) is really important in my community of writers. The last few lines of your piece today really hit home.
3/17/2017 06:31:13 am
Thanks Michelle! :)
3/19/2017 12:23:49 pm
Such an important post. The last few lines really hit home with me today too. I'm piloting a new curriculum in my college writing course this semester that is *not* about putting writers first. It's making me crazy! Thinking right this moment about hacking the curriculum for the rest of the semester. We'd only have a month or so of true workshop, but that's better than nothing!
3/19/2017 10:07:07 pm
Jack, hack, hack away!!!! :)
3/19/2017 10:08:28 pm
Elisabeth: Auto-correct turned my first "Hack" into "Jack". Haha
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About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.