Writing is a multi-faceted subject to teach. As stated by Sarah Helene Tooley in
The Art in Teaching Writing
, there is no "one-size fits all" curriculum.
Developing writers requires time, something that is difficult to carve out of the assessment-driven environment in many of today's classrooms. Additionally, it requires that teachers address the needs of all students, as each writer has strengths and weaknesses and each benefits from individual and often immediate feedback. How can teachers possibly rise to this very high standard? Where can we begin this lofty goal of reaching each student where they are in their learning to be writers
My contention is that we reach them by engaging and validating their thinking, allowing their connections to emerge through visual experiences, and encouraging their writing to reflect those thoughts. From this format, students can grow individually responding to feedback that is specific, personal, and therefore, quite meaningful.
Lucy Calkins says, "Writing does not begin with desk work but with life work."
We all have something to say as we all have life experiences. It is an illusion that writers lead more significant lives than non-writers; the truth is writers are just more in the habit of finding the significance that is there in their lives. If our lives don't feel significant, sometimes it's not our lives, but our response to our lives, which need to be richer.
The connection of words and images is, in reality, a large portion of the day-to-day thinking of the first graders in my class. These young students are eagerly learning to connect words to the images, working to generate thoughts and ideas using fundamental vocabulary, and composing pieces, written and drawn, to share and explain their new knowledge. Visual experiences are an important sensorial component in the development of basic comprehension. Images are all around us and interpreting them in a meaningful way is an essential skill for learning, whether from an art object, a literary work, a historical event, or an electronic image. This unit extends the writer's workshop model to include a fully formed and formatted approach to visual literacy that will engage and encourage young thinkers and writers. The focus on connections to text (verbal or visual) -- in particular text to text, text to self, and text to world -- will guide students to develop strong writing skills. The unit approaches the teaching of writing and thinking with strategies such as drawing stories, making pictures to show meaning, reading pictures to develop understanding, and using drawing as part of the reading and writing process.