Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday Sayings: Flummoxed by Choice

If you've been around my blog very long, sat through my writing PD, or read my book, Gatekeepers, you know how I feel about writing prompts. Simply put, I'm not a huge fan. So it's no surprise that when I teach teachers about writing, the topic of choice will come up. 

This week I had the opportunity to present my writing PD at a conference in Twin Falls, Idaho. When I shared the fact that my beliefs prevent me from buying a year's worth of writing prompts from TPT, a junior high ELA teacher expressed a valid concern. Her students don't know how to handle choice in writing when she attempts to offer it. I responded by saying that it's very possible her students don't know how to write without prompts, because from their elementary days on, they haven't been in a culture where that is the expectation. In other words, it's not their fault. 

In light of that conversation, I find it interesting that this morning I came across the following expert in 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. 

I think it's fair to say, Twin Falls is not the only place where students in the secondary classroom are "flummoxed by choice." Fortunately, skilled secondary writing teachers can turn this problem around, but I bet they'd jump for joy if we elementary teachers sent them writers who already knew how to handle choice with both ease and enthusiasm. 

I realize my views about prompts understandably make some writing teachers uncomfortable, especially if prompts were the norm throughout their education and continue to be so in the culture where they teach. I'm not here to bully anyone into abandoning all forms of writing prompts, but I would like to at least inspire teachers to ask, "Why?" and to consider what choice might do for their writers today and in the future. Will they be flummoxed or empowered?

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  1. This is something I really need to do better. I often use writing as reading response and therefore use a prompt. But I absolutely see how we also need to set that foundation of creativity for our writers and give them the skills to write freestyle. Once again, you've inspired me to do better Tammy-thank you!

    1. Miss Trayers, Well, I've seen lots of examples of the great things you get from your writers. You do use your prompts with purpose and sure get your kids thinking deeply!