Done. I do not allow my students to use the “D” word about their writing. I have instilled in them that they are never done. I have told them that they can use that word if they get a publishing contract for something they’ve written. We use expressions like, “I’m putting it aside for a while because I feel like I’ve done all I can to make it as good as I can for now.” And, “I am no longer passionate about this, so I’m putting it aside,” and “I’m submitting this part for you to evaluate because it’s the best example of…”. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly students acquire class language. They love repeating those phrases. It’s like class language is a special secret code.
The other day, a student who came new to us during the second semester approached me with the following question: “Ms. Cribby, I’m done with my writing. What do I do now?” A few nearby students stopped what they were doing and looked at me, round-eyed.
The new student picked upon their reaction, and I smiled at her and explained, with a slew of apologies, the basics of the writing process we used. Her reaction is one that never ceases to amaze me. She grinned and said, “Oh, great.”
I spend months setting up the process of writer’s workshop, and to have new students embrace the idea immediately always stops me in my tracks.
I have a few theories on why students like the idea of never being done with their writing. I know as a writer, that I like the idea of my WIP (work in progress), but I also like the accomplishment of being “done.” However, my first “finished” novel (unpublished), was “done” about ten times, and now, it’s a work I have set aside, for now. When and if I ever publish one of my novels, I know I might use that “D” word.
It occurred to me the other day, watching my students’ reaction to my new student’s question, that my students embrace this idea of not being done so much more readily and completely now more than ever. So, what’s different? I have been teaching basically the same model of writer’s workshop for twenty years(of course, I’ve tweaked it every year). What’s different is that my students write on Googledocs.
Revising isn’t writing one draft, making notes all over it and then rewriting it. Students are able to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, and they don’t feel like they’ve done more work. They’re doing far more work on their writing than ever, but it doesn’t feel like labor anymore. My students are far more open to feedback when it’s part of the dynamics of their writing. My feedback and their writing isn’t static.
Sure, you can look at hand-written work and give feedback, and students can make changes. Only the most intrepid writers though, would make real changes. That process would take far more time though that now can be used in making even more changes.
Yesterday I was evaluating student’s writing on a compare/contrast essay. I had tons of emails and responses from my students to my comments throughout the day. Nearly every student took my feedback and made changes even though we were, in that point, “done for now” with that assignment.
There is a time and place for pen and paper. From my perspective, drafting and crafting writing, for the purpose of improvement, is best done digitally. I could go on about the increased engagement of using computers to write, and I could go on about how much more quickly students can improve their writing. I could go on about class procedures that allow me to give tons more feedback in far less time.
My big aha came yesterday, though. Students wanted to improve their work, which they’d already turned in, based on my feedback. Students are feeling more ownership with their writing. Again, I could speculate and theorize. The bottom line is, it’s working.
On a completely different subject, I still haven’t written about that day we lost Wifi and the wonders that came out of that. I also want to share some of the 8 million thoughts I’ve had about the ubiquity of teaching and learning using technology. I also want to share some about my learning curve. I also want to share why I’m so exhausted but loving teaching more now than ever. I have to get back to evaluating essays though.
Up next: who knows.