Let’s go back in time and for a few minutes try to recall and remember the most interesting writing lesson you had in your school years. Did these lessons kindle in you a love for writing? Were you viewed as a writer by your teachers? Did you love writing because your written pieces were judged based on the quality of the content and not on the number of words you spelled correctly? Were you ever told that writing is about expressing feelings, ideas and thoughts with the voice that belongs to that writer? Most of your answers to these questions would be a ‘no’.
Things, however, have changed for the better. If these same questions are asked of the young writers (students) at BD Primary, their answer would be a big ‘yes.’ Our young writers are given ample opportunities, time, space and freedom to share their thoughts, ideas, stories, opinions with the world around them.
Young Writers! Many people would be wondering about and questioning this term. But, that’s what our primary students are. Their foray into the world of writing starts from the moment they realise the marks they make carry meaning. These marks (though some people call them scribbles) eventually develop into drawings, letters, words, sentences and stories.
For many of us, writing is synonymous with the ability to spell correctly, having perfect handwriting, being able to diagram a sentence into nouns, verbs, adjectives, following a formulaic process and writing on a topic (Myself, My Mother, My Friend) imposed on the student by the teacher. To see young children as writers and authors, adults need to change their lens and look at children as competent thinkers and creators who can author engaging stories, make lists, write coherent reports, create poetry, write an informative newspaper article.
Writing is a beautiful, creative process that is fun, engaging, empowering, emotive, and reflective. It is not the drudgery that, sadly, has so often been projected. Our primary classrooms, which any visitor can sense and see, are filled with enthusiastic writers who are writing/drawing a detailed explanation of the strategy they have used for solving a mathematical problem (I sow 3 then I sow 1 then I sow 3…), writing scientific reports to justify their conclusions (My hypothesis was partially correct because I did write that…), thinking of ideas for their next story, reading their carefully crafted piece of writing and receiving authentic feedback from their peers.
Our young writers, over the years, know that writing is not something that can be caged and restricted to the language class. They see writing as a means of communication, expression and reflection that transcends the artificial subject area compartment. While studying the city of Mumbai in Social Studies, a student wrote a poem, Mumbai: Busy as a bee, to capture the essence of Mumbai through her words and voice.
On another occasion, to share the benefits of extracurricular activities, a student wrote,
My third reason why I think extra-curricular classes can benefit children, is that physical extra-curricular classes like different sports, martial arts and yoga can help children stay fit. Physical activities also helps with social skills as children are in a good mood.
Guided by the philosophy of the Writers’ Workshop, the Writing Process and the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing, our writing program aims to develop lifelong, effective writers. In the real world, outside the four walls of the school, writers ideate and plan their piece of writing, they create numerous drafts and work and rework on them, seek feedback on their writing, revise their writing, send it to the editor for edits and, after a long arduous, fulfilling process, publish their writing piece. Our young writers follow a similar process in their writing journey. The Workshop Model, which has underpinnings of the inquiry approach, creates spaces where students and teachers delve deep to investigate the components of a well-crafted piece of writing. The discussions during these shared experiences (mini-lessons) centre around the hook used by the writer, the style of writing, the point of view adopted by the writer, the play of words, the different sentence structures (Boom!! The whole castle exploded! Hylla and the Amazons stepped out of the ruins of the dungeon looking around until they knew Cires had laughed her laugh. But Hylla felt different.), the use of literary devices and punctuation to create drama and effect. At times, these mini-lessons could lead to an inquiry of words – their etymology, spelling rules that govern them, the shades of meaning they convey. Learning correct spelling is thus an organic and natural process nested in meaningful, authentic situations.
Who wouldn’t want to read a story that has a captivating start – “I know! It’s so not fair! I’m pretty sure that no other kids in our school get so much homework,” Daisy says, matter-of-factly. Daisy Parker is the kind of person who never fails to finish her homework on time, but hates doing it.
The skills and deep understanding gained by the young writers are deployed when they craft their own piece of writing during their independent writing time. They are cognizant of the fact that any piece of writing has six core components – Ideas, Organization, Sentence Fluency, Voice, Word Choice, Conventions and Presentation – known as the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing.
At the heart of the Writing Process is the conference/feedback time. The writers seek out their peers and their teachers, read their writing to them and welcome their feedback, which in turn helps them to move forward and polish their writing. Our safe and respectful classrooms, with trust and relationship at their core, provide a fertile ground to grow budding writers and poets who love writing. Once their piece of writing is complete, they take great pride and pleasure in celebrating their work with the classroom audience. A sense of accomplishment coupled with a seat on the Author’s Chair, validates their identity as an author/writer, who writes for pleasure and has ownership of the topic, idea and choices made and has the freedom to make her voice heard.
Writing provides a gateway for meditation, a way for our young writers to understand themselves and the world around them. It slowly grows on them and they seek out opportunities to capture their experiences during their travels and special moments of their lives.
…I threw up at night because I ate Maggi and I walked 9 km that’s why I was tired and threw up.
Boring, with a capital B. I had to stay in bed almost every time. I played carrom and UNO was fun.
Writing, thus, is an authentic, purposeful process (and not an arduous, cumbersome task) that encapsulates the values (3Cs – Curiosity, Courage, Collaboration) we espouse at B.D. Somani. Our writers are curious to know what true writing is and how they can grow as writers, courageous in drafting their thoughts and baring their heart and soul on a piece of paper, and collaborative and open to others’ feedback.