Harnessing the enthusiasm that many young writers generate during prewriting and helping them navigate the transition that turns that energy into writing they feel really good about can be tricky. Each time I’ve led a workshop or a Studio session, all of the excitement that kids have for their new project often begins to evaporate when they dive into drafting and realize how hard it can be to make their vision a reality.
During Studio this summer, I learned that introducing understanding as a writer’s disposition during the prewriting phase provided fellows of all ages perspective that they were hungry for and strategies that helped them plan in meaningful ways. Rather than moving directly from brainstorming into drafting, everyone was encouraged to seek a bit of understanding first. They considered their audience, their topic, and the type of piece they wanted to write. Then, they began doing some research to learn more about the subject of their work, the genre they were attempting, and the best way to engage their readers. Asking each writer during conferences what they would need to understanding before they lept ahead slowed them down enough to help them reflect, study, develop a prewriting plan that was informed by their research, and move forward with tools that could sustain them better. In the photo above, you can see Haley digging into a collaboratively written children’s book about a classroom that is going green (incidentally, it is one of the Scholastic Kids Are Authors books). Sticky notes in hand, she flags pages and makes notes that reveal what she is learning about the craft of writing by studying the work of other writers.
During conferences, one of our high school fellows mentioned that making a commitment to understanding was what she needed to do in order to persevere as a writer. She realized that one of her greatest struggles was finishing the pieces that she started. After reflecting and making an intentional effort to attend to the dispositions, she was able to determine on her own that engaging in a bit of research and study would enable her to sketch out a better prewriting plan that could sustain her through the hardest parts of the drafting process. The vision for the work that she hoped to produce was made clearer, and this realization happened independent of any real guidance from me. It’s been exciting to see how the dispositions are serving Studio writers not only in their efforts to hone their craft, but also in their efforts to become self-reflective and independent learners.