Saturday, May 31, 2008

Writin' & Readin'

“This doesn’t help,” I thought, closing yet another book that claimed it could improve my writing instruction. So many books I read advocated the “writing process” as the only instructional method needed as long as students wrote frequently. “Have them keep a daily journal,” these books suggested—but what would I say to the student who had “nothing to write about?” “Have them share their writing with peers,” suggested others—but how would that improve their writing? And what should I direct them to say to each other? “Diagramming is the gateway to writing excellence,” still others claimed; can you imagine Charles Dickens diagramming all the sentences in A Christmas Carol before publication? I just couldn’t grasp exactly what I should do to develop student writing capacity.

So, I changed direction and began to research what actual writers and editors said about writing. What I discovered dramatically changed my thinking about teaching writing. More than two years later, I am pleased to introduce The Writer’s Stylus: Transforming Substance into Significance, a new professional development program devoted to writing instruction.

This program’s inaugural training event takes place in Philadelphia, PA, June 23-28th. Additional information is available via email through Clerestory Learning's contact form.

Writing is a transformational process, so the training is designed to take you through that process, discovering its waves of progress, gaining insight for personal writing growth, ultimately to develop tomorrow’s authors.

I also want to make you aware of two reading-related and highly informative podcasts. Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, appears on the Brain Science Podcast for a fascinating interview. Find out why she loves Frog and Toad books, sees reading as essential to sustaining culture, and why she’s concerned about technology’s impacts on reading and thinking abilities. If you haven’t read Wolf’s book, listen first to Dr. Ginger Campbell’s excellent summary and discussion of its content. Go to the Brain Science Podcast website and download Episodes 24 and 29. The show notes are also available: Episode 24, Episode 29. While at the website, I highly recommend you subscribe to the podcast. Subscription is free! Dr. Campbell is an excellent interviewer, and I always find something related to teaching/learning in every episode. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes—simply search for “Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell.” Past episodes can also be downloaded at iTunes.

In my next posting, which I hope to make soon, I’ll be discussing some recent research on working memory that should influence our work with struggling learners, especially when combined with the findings on exercise and brain plasticity. I’ll be discussing how research findings from these two areas may combine to give us greater effectiveness with all learners but especially with students who struggle.

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