Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend the day with our staff developer as she worked with third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers to share reading and writing strategies and ideas. She was sharing with us some work we could do to support children as they head into our state test. Some strategies that might help students on the parts where they seem to have trouble.The work was fascinating. It certainly didn’t feel like test prep! She had students building academic vocabulary, watching multiple videos, brainstorming ideas, sorting and ranking details to match those ideas, and even watching the videos to determine authors’ techniques and goals. Then she surprised me. In each session, she spent some time talking with teachers about a writing product. Yes, a product. We are focused on the writing process, so, to be honest, I haven’t encouraged teachers to spend too much time on the final product. I usually suggest that they revise, edit, celebrate, and move on to the next bend or unit. More writing develops better writers, right?
“Have students add beautiful artwork to their current writing pieces!” she exclaimed. She suggested that maybe teachers work with the art teacher and have her come and teach some lessons during the publishing phase. She suggested that these beautiful books end up on our walls, in the school library, or even displayed in the town’s public library! And she suggested that we make sure to share them with parents. When we questioned her more about this focus on product, she talked about the need for kids and parents to see writing as something beautiful, something tangible. This is a way for people to see our work, celebrate it, share it, and develop a better understanding of what we are doing in the area of writing. I need to reflect on the place of product in our writing work.