Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thinking About Graphic Organizers

The following post is written from the teacher part of my brain--but it's about writing, so the writer part of my brain is involved, too.

There are a lot of writing programs aimed at children that rely heavily on graphic organizers.  (A graphic organizer is a visual layout of a way that the writing that hasn't been written yet might be organized.  I hope that makes sense.) If you google graphic organizers for writing you can see examples of what I am talking about.  I don't want to post one here because I don't want to single any particular one out as being "bad".  That is not my intent.  I just want to give a little perspective.

Here's the thing, I am an author and  often I have no idea what I am going to write until I write it.  I can't organize the bits and pieces into parts that will eventually become a whole because I don't yet know what those bits are.  I can't fill in the little circles and squares because my ideas don't come to me in circles and squares.  They come in words.  I figure out what I am going to write while I am writing it.

And I don't think I am the only one.

I think there are kids around (and I work with some of them) whose brains work the same way.  Words lead to more words, which lead to more words, eventually leading to the right words.

Because folks, the truth that no one wants to admit is that writing is a messy process.  It cannot be shelved or boxed or circled into little spaces and made to be neat and pretty and EASY.  Writing takes work and commitment and sometimes rather large leaps of faith. We need to let kids wallow in the mud of it all, we need to let them get dirty and play with words and language. We need to let them figure out the way that ideas come to them by trying different approaches--approaches that might not include tidy little boxes and other cute shapes.

Perhaps this is a novel idea, but what if we taught kids to write by actually letting dunno...write?

Just a little food for thought.




Stasia said...

Yes! The most important part of first drafts are creating the "clay"--the words that can be organized LATER. Sometimes those "organizers" make kids feel defeated if they can't somehow see the whole picture of the story before they begin the first draft, which is nuts! I am also a big believer in the unfinished story. I wrote beginnings of novels for years and felt bad that they were never completed. Now I realize their value and when I teach writing, I encourage kids and teens to value these story starts. All pieces of a story have value. And sometimes the "disorganized" are the diamonds in the rough.

Nancy Villalobos said...

I agree. If we don't teach children to LOVE to write just for the fun of playing around with words and seeing what ideas come with them, then we have defeated the heart of the potential writer in every child.