Downtown Writing

Adding these unpublished posts that have been sitting in my drafts folder…

Angela Stockman does amazing work with her young writers, and I’ve been following her work for sometime. Here she connects writing with thinking and classroom culture.

Her work with Communities for Learning is something else I’m exploring. My mind is whirling around the possibilities for something similar here in town….

Downtown Writing? Hmmmm…..


Toast Rules

I love Patti Digh. A couple of years ago, I read Life is a Verb, and I’ve been following her ever since. This post is one of my favs–Toast Rules.

The best line: “Well,” I said sweetly, “I just never knew you could actually go past toast time. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that if you have bread and a toaster, it’s pretty much always toast time.”

She’s referencing a restaurant that has rules about when to serve toast. As I read it again, I was reminded of the course I am taking at P2PU, Writing and the Common Core, led by Bud Hunt. We are reading and commenting on the Common Core standards for writing, and writing together as we think about what this means to us as teachers.

It’s great fun, both being in community and sharing ideas about writing.
When I happened upon Patti’s essay again today, I was reminded about writing rules and how they limit us.
“Don’t start sentences with AND,” or “Never write a fragment.” Often, students become so hung up on following the rules (and making sure they have the five-paragraph essay down pat) that their writing is boring, gutless, and drab. I say, listen to Patti.

It’s always writing time, served up with voice and style.


I mentioned to my writing group (I like the sound of that, by the way) that I had too many drafts of posts in my “saved” folder. Bud Hunt said, “Hit publish, Susan, hit publish.”

He’s right. But here’s the thing. This one had only a title. “Standards at all?” Nothing else.

That’s because my thinking is still muddy here. Why do we need standards for writing, especially standards that limit and constrict? We are talking about the Common Core Standards in our course, so that’s what I’m referencing here–the writing standards. And, for the most part, I don’t mind them. I like that all writing teachers have some direction and purpose. Rather, I am hopeful teachers feel encouraged to write more often and use writing to learn because we have standards.

But I wrote the title a few days ago, thinking that standards could be too confining, too limiting. As a writing teacher, I’ve found the best writing comes from the inside out, when it matters to the writer. Bud talks about this on his blog today, when he shares his thoughts on personal vs argumentative writing. His point is that students will become better writers when they care (if they care). And I think that’s what I was thinking about when I wrote “standards at all?” Because for me, the caring comes when we start not with standards but with supportive, thoughtful teachers.

I know. That’s a wishy-washy platitude that means little. Unless, of course, we live into that vision. To write is to put a piece of yourself on display, and it’s risky. Beginning writers need to feel support not ridicule, community not criticism. Good writing begins with a safe place to experiment, and I’m not sure the standards help teachers understand that.

So now we’re back to what makes a good teacher, aren’t we? And how do we help students become comfortable and confident learners who care. I don’t have answers for you, Bud, but your last line is a starting point for me:

And what did we do to make that happen?