Monday, November 24, 2008

October Observations

Power Writing.

Students stagnate; they need fluency. Writing requires the ability to translate thought into written discourse. The writing is not simply talk written down. It flows in the readers mind IF it is organized, vibrant, interesting, and precise. More precisely, according to William Zinsser, "Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity."

How can I move my students into more fluid and fluent writing? Peter Elbow, Writing with Power, says, "Freewriting is the easiest way to get words on paper and the best all-around practice in writing that I know." In his introduction, he explains that "...writing with power also means getting power over yourself and over the writing process; knowing what you are doing as you write; being in charge; having control; not feeling stuck or helpless or intim­idated."

I know Mr. Elbow didn't want a teacher's intrusion into this powerful, free-writing technique, but I need to encourage my students into unintimidating writing -- to guide them into free-flowing thinking transformed into many words on paper. Without the ability to let ideas flow, my students would not ever become good writers.

A former colleague had introduced me to a National Writing Project class activity, "Power Writing." From her description I created word lists and a power writing format for students to follow to develop writing fluency. Here's the process:

Students focus, engage, and write. It's very exciting. An activity this week and next will be creating "Found Poems" from our power writing. Students will find fifteen consecutive words that are interesting or clever to them. We'll read their choices in a performance of a living poem while we listen and admire our fluency power.

With our new power in putting prose on paper, we'll be able to move to manipulating the language into wonderful words, words of brevity, clarity, simplicity, and humanity.

Writing will be power !