I have been in a writing slump, but then I read this post from Two Writing Teachers about the book Feedback that Moves Writers Forward. It left me with food for thought, a book to add to my summer reading list, and inspiration for a blog post.
The feedback we give our young writers is so important, be it formally or informally. Our words can encourage, lift, or stifle their work. I know this as a teacher, but have seen it up close as a mother.
My son will be entering sixth grade this fall and has loved drawing and writing since before he could actually write or read. Even before he entered Kindergarten spent his days filling page after page with drawings that made stories.
In Kindergarten, he loved to write books. And since he was in kindergarten, his books were mainly pictures that he narrated for us. I would come home from work and he would have stacks of pages, stacked up in a specific order, ready to share with me. He would tell me what was happening, complete with dialogue and sound effects.
As you can see from the picture above, his characters didn’t have bodies. The arms and legs came right out of the heads. I got that developmentally he should have been drawing people with bodies, but he didn’t want to draw people that way. At one point his teacher sent something home about this and I sat with him to help. Turns out, he knew exactly how to draw the way she expected, he just didn’t like the way that looked. He liked his way of drawing. He was making an artistic choice. (One reason I try to find out WHY a student made a choice in his/her writing before dispensing feedback about it.)
You can see a video of him talking about one specific experience here. “She grabbed a gray crayon and put pants on me.” There have been plenty of times he told the story of his teacher “vandalizing” (the word Troy uses) his work. I wasn’t there when this happened, I didn’t see it. However, I did see how it affected him and his desire to create.
Luckily, since then, he has had teachers who provided feedback that made him proud of his work and encouraged to create more. To grow. To move forward. Teachers that read his personal blog and left him encouraging comments. Teachers that return his hyperbole filled emails in the summer time. It is because of those teachers that he will continue to move forward in his writing.
I think of Troy’s experience every time I consider picking up a pen and writing on a student’s work. How at the end of his elementary career, he still gets fired up about the teacher who didn’t like his drawings six years ago.
I very rarely write directly on my writers’ drafts. Instead I leave comments on google docs, give verbal feedback in conferences, or use post-its. My job is not to pick at each tiny mistake. It is not my writing. The writing belongs to a child.
My goal is not to create perfect writing, but motivated writers.
I can’t wait to get Feedback that Moves Writers Forward and learn more about moving my young writers forward!