We’re in the midst of a short story unit right now, and my sixth graders are deeply engaged in writing a story. I gave them complete freedom on the story idea, and have been focusing in on strong openings, formatting of dialogue and plot design. This is their first endeavor in Google Docs, and they love it and I love it.
And we haven’t even gotten into any of the collaborative tools at our disposal yet ….
As per my norm (not Norm, from Cheers. Norm!), I am writing a story alongside them. (You can read my progress so far, if that interests you) Actually, when I am not conferencing with them about their stories, I am writing my story, and projecting it up on the interactive board, so they can track my progress as I write, revise, rewrite.
They are fascinated with me as a writer, it turns out. I worry about my writing being intimidating to them, but that hasn’t seemed to happen at all.
I’m starting to annotate my thinking of my own story, too, to show them how a writer might reflect on the act of writing. This is all part of our digital portfolio work. Soon, I will be having them shift from writer to reflector of writing, and I need to model some of the ways this looks. Using the comment feature on Google Docs seems like a good way for me to do this, and it has been helpful.
The act of annotation, particularly of your own writing, forces you to consider agency. What choices did I make? Why this and not that? How did I overcome the obstacle presented by that cliffhanger? Where did I get tied in knots and how did I undo those knots to keep the story moving along?
I know, as a writer, I do these unconsciously, without thinking. I am forcing myself to become more transparent in my writing practice, in hopes that it provides a path for those students who struggle with the reflective stance. It is one of those critical thinking skills that some of 11 year olds get, and some don’t quite get.
Peace (off to the side of the world),