Great writers are not perfect
By Judianne Jayme
The past week, teachers at the school I work in were immersed in a four-day residency program, along with visiting teachers. This is Year 2 of three that we are focusing on how to get students to become better writers.
As a writer, I found that I, too, was learning about the process of writing in this residency, as both a learner and a teacher. One idea came up that I felt would resonate with you, my audience. Great writers shouldn’t care about errors as they write down their “first thinking” drafts. This is the case with my own writing, and it should be what’s encouraged at home.
It is altogether too easy to pick apart grammar and spelling, but we must understand that written work is always a draft until it is published. I’m even willing to debate that published work is still a work in progress. There will be mistakes and there will be points that need to be addressed, updated, and discarded. This is why so many texts have multiple editions.
When students come to me with drafts, we focus on a few things right away: ideas and voice. The organization, the conventions and mechanics – these are equally important, but are secondary in the writing process. What’s most important is that students are writing meaningful content. No one wants to read a piece that is dry; that has no personality in the writing. Things are meaningful when you hear the author’s ideas and emotions in the piece.
This entire column is written specifically with my voice embedded in it. You get into my head every two weeks about educational ideas. This contributes to me being an effective writer. The editing, formatting, and the technical part are all done after I get my ideas down. I also have the amazing team at Pilipino Express who do one final look-over before this is published.
Do not discourage creativity in children. We want students to feel successful. Praise their ideas. Honour how their piece sounds. Do not nitpick at mechanical or structural errors when reading work for the first time. That is not what writing is entirely about. What matters is the heart of the piece, the ideas generated, and how inviting the writer makes his or her work.
Parent tip: Writers write like readers!
There is a strong correlation between writing and reading. The more you read, the more you notice patterns in published authors’ styles of writing. You also learn richer vocabulary.
Take the time to read with your children, and I highly recommend reading their own work! If there are parts that don’t make sense (wrong spelling, run-on sentences, repetitive ideas), ask them, “Is this what you meant?” You can even ask them, “What were you trying to say in this part?” or “What do you think about how this part sounds?” Instead of saying “It should be…” make a suggestion instead.
We are here to support and encourage our young readers, not reprimand them for errors. After all, even great writers make mistakes.
Judianne Jayme is a third year educator teaching sixth grade in the Winnipeg School Division.