So far this summer has been about running and reading, which is exactly what my little life needed. Besides the professional reading pile that needs my attention, I hadn't planned on thinking too much about school until I had to. That all changed when I was asked to give a 90-minute presentation next week on my elementary perspective of narrative writing. Between books, naps, a half-marathon, and a recovery trip to the ocean, I've been ruminating and planning how to squeeze all I want to say and do into an hour and a half. That's easier said than done for someone who has a plethora of opinions about writing in the classroom.
The whole experience brought up an issue I have that most likely won't make the cut. Besides not having the time to fit it in, I'm not sure I'm courageous enough to share these particular strong opinions with a room of K-12 teachers. The poor audience will experience plenty of my other soap box issues anyway. The topic has been on my list of things to post about for a long time though, so you all are the lucky ones who will get an earful.
The truth is I have an issue with graphic organizers, specifically in writing. My worry is that they can feel inauthentic and steal precious time from real writing. Two years ago I taught a unit on writing realistic fiction. In preparation, I looked at a few resources available online written by other elementary teachers. I was taken back with the excessive use of graphic organizers. Day after day the beginning of the unit was bombarded with them. I wanted to ask, "Now, when do the kids actually get to write?" Needless to say, I didn't go that route. After a bit of preparation and planning on day one, my kids were giving their best approximations at realistic fiction on day two and it only got better from there.
Do real writers use an abundance of graphic organizers? That's the main question here. I'd like to consider myself a real writer, and even though I can't speak for us all, I personally don't break out a slew of graphic organizers before I write. I recognize that I plan as a writer; it's an essential part of the process. I keep it pretty simple though, and that's the way I approach the planning stages in my classroom. Quick conversations and sketches are typical for us. I want my writers to spend most of their time writing, not planning for it in artificial ways.