Developing as writers is important because:
- Writing is an activity in which we can develop alongside the children. Writing isn’t like other activities which get easier the more we do them; it always remains challenging, whether we are facing the challenges of learning to write a story in Year 2 or whether we are putting together a master’s thesis, a love letter or an email of complaint to the rail network. This understanding allows us to be writers alongside the children the children we teach, sharing the process of writing with them and externalizing our thought processes (or metacognitively modelling if you want to give it its technical name) to the children with whom we work and developing an authentically collaborative approach to writing.
- It helps us understand the process of writing and the useful behaviours of the writer. We are well used to talking about modeling readerly behaviours in the classroom – what a reader does, how a reader thinks and questions a text, how they share and discuss texts – but are we really as confident doing this with writing? Developing as writers helps us to talk about our own struggle to find the right words, the choices we make in order to have the right impact on the reader, the two sides of writing (the creation and the editing critical side).
- It increases our confidence to model writing spontaneously with children. Authentic modeling shows children we don’t always have the right answers straight away and that we go through an editing process as we write. If we always turn up to class with a pre-prepared model, the children miss out on the process that got us there (and maybe even worse, if we ourselves downloaded it from a website, we don’t necessarily know how the writer got there).
- It helps us understand the difficulties children face when they write (and not just the technical ones – the problems of idea genesis, translating an idea into writing effectively, using the right set of tools for the job are just as important). The fear of the blank page is one many children will face daily and it’s only through experiencing this for ourselves, that we can discuss the various ways of getting words onto the page. Developing our own writing helps us to understand the importance of drafting and redrafting, of knowing when to call it a day on a piece of work (to know it is finished or that it is destined for the bin).
- It helps us think about writing not just as part of the curriculum, but as a writer would think about it. Writing is not a mechanical process, it is a complex and subtle art involving countless decisions which add up to shape a successful piece of writing. An understanding of the art of writing at your own level helps you think as a writer, rather than viewing writing as a set of disassociated skills (one simile, two examples of personifiction, an alliterative title and a rhetorical question do not necessarily make a good piece of writing).
- It helps us with our own communication skills. The better we are able to communicate through writing, the better our written communications will be. As teachers we are constantly communicating in writing – with other teachers, with our children, with parents. Are we confident our written communications are as effective as they can be?
Of course there are many other benefits besides the ones listed above – including those of becoming a truly reflective practitioner, of the personal benefits that can be derived from writing and the catharsis it can offer – but they are for another post another day.