- they must choose three ideas from their writing lists for every genre piece we do (we’re working on memoir now) and create purpose statements for each: “I am writing about _________________,because I want my reader to know___________________. I feel these statements really force my kids to focus on their topic and ensure that there is a point to this writing piece – it’s not random, they are clear about the “so what?” This purpose statement serves as our anchor as we confer as well, which helps me guide my students through their drafting/revising stages.
- They must create a timeline of events – sometimes this can be detailed, and sometimes not (as in the example below – Eric’s notebook), but this timeline also serves as an anchor and a tool for me to offer advice in our conferences. In Eric’s case, for instance, we conferred about the timeline itself – he needed many more specifics in order to be sure he knew where he was going with this piece. Once he’d done that, he was ready to move on to the next stage.
- Using the timeline, each student also charts a beginning-middle-end sketch: three columns (b,m,e) with specifics from their timelines sketched out in the appropriate column.
We meet again to confer and make sure that all questions are clarified and that the student is really ready to begin drafting…and then they’re off!
All this pre-writing work lays the groundwork for a more independent drafting process. We still meet to confer everyday, but both the student and I are so anchored in the “so what?” of their piece due to all that planning work, that the conference is more about improving the writing from a technical and emotional point of view that what it used to be:” I’m stuck, I don’t know where to go next!”
Last week, after working on these plans every day, I am happy to say that each of my kids left workshop feeling armed and ready to begin drafting tomorrow, Monday. Hooray!