Julie Danneberg’s post has inspired me to add a NEW CATEGORY to my blog! From the start, my intent with this blog was to offer quality content for kid lit creators, and also for educators. So many of us kid lit people are/were educators inspired to write by our experiences in the classroom. Much of what we share is meaningful to those who teach writing and students of all ages. I’ll let Julie explain the potential she sees for using blog posts featuring real-world writing experiences in the classroom…
But one moment to announce the winner of the giveaway for REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT: LEADING THE MINUTE WOMEN IN THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE…….Congratulations, Elisabeth Lane!
“A Treasure Trove for Teaching Writing” by Julie Danneberg
I am a writer and my most recent book, Valentine’s Day Jitters was just released. However, in this post, I am taking off my writer hat and putting on my teacher-of-writing hat by sharing some thoughts on how to use the many excellent posts on Beth Anderson’s blog.
Louise DeSalvo, author of The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft and Creativity (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014) wrote: “Through the years I’ve learned that the most successful writers are those who have learned to think about their process and reflect on their work.”
As a middle school writing teacher, I totally agree. I believe that my job is to teach not only the craft of writing, but also to help students learn to become aware of their own thinking and take charge of their own process as they practice that craft.
Luckily for teachers, all of the writers who post on Beth Anderson’s blog have shared important tidbits that reveal the thinking that went on behind their writing as they completed their books. And it is precisely this authentic, real life wisdom that can help students grow as writers.
To demonstrate what I mean, here are just a few tidbits I gleaned from reading two posts and looking at them through a middle school writing teacher’s lens. Unfortunately, I only had room for two, but truly, there is an important take-away in each and every post.
In the November 13, 2020 Behind the Scenes blog post, “The Power of Yes,” author Jolene Gutierrez shared the life story of her nonfiction book, Bionic Beasts: Saving Animals Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs and Beaks! (Millbrook Press, 2020). It started out as a picture book and ended up as a chapter book. Gutierrez had never written a chapter book before, so when her editor suggested that she expand the book into a chapter book, she sat down and gave herself very clear goals as to what information she wanted and needed to include. (You can see the goals in her post). Taking the time to think through and create these goals guided her research and kept her writing on track.
Lesson for students: Before getting deep into research it is important to have a clear knowledge of the kind of information that you are looking for. Of course, this thinking takes time, but in the end, saves time. For instance, one goal Gutierrez had was to make sure that the chosen animals had high-quality photographs to support their story. Knowing this ahead of time kept her from spending time researching and writing on an animal that had no photographic support.
I also checked out the November 26, 2021 Behind the Scenes blog post “Connecting with Characters” by Kirsti Call. As writers we are taught to “write what you know.” But what if you are writing about a turkey who talks and gives away his warm clothing to the other farm animals during a cold snap like Kirsti did in Cold Turkey (Little Brown, 2021) Call explains that although she was writing fiction, she was also writing what she knows. She wrote that her main character was “willing to make himself uncomfortable to help someone else become more comfortable.” Call knew how this felt because as a teen, she also had to do just that. By taking an important emotional moment in her own life and applying those feelings to her main character, she was able to write more authentically about that character.
Lesson for students: There are many lessons in this post, but one that stands out is that writers need to explore and delve into their own emotions and experiences in order to better understand and then write about those emotions and motivations in their characters.
Obviously, every post won’t totally fit into something your students are working on in your classroom. But over time, you can collect the posts (and books) that do fit with your curriculum, and what you want your students to understand about the writing process. Sharing these tidbits about how writers struggle, think and work will give your students ideas that they can try out themselves. And more importantly, it will help them see that writing is a messy, one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of process. And if their writing process is messy and they are struggling, it is okay. It just means that they are real writers!
Bio: Julie Danneberg is a children’s writer, retired teacher and frequent presenter at teaching and writing conferences. Visit her website at www.juliedanneberg.com. To read more about helping students learn about their own process read this post: Minilesson Monday: Mapping the Writing Process – Julie Danneberg
Don’t miss Julie’s latest release, VALENTINE’S DAY JITTERS!
AND.. Julie’s post “Making Learning Real in Traditional Expository Nonfiction” is another great post for teachers!