Chief of Operations and Lead Writer for Two Writing Teachers, Stacey Shubitz, and Two Writing Teachers Co-Author, Melanie Meehan share beliefs, practices, and research around the benefits of teaching writing through a workshop approach. Stacey and Melanie also shine as authors of groundbreaking professional books and co-hosts of the Two Writing Teachers Podcast!
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Schoolutions - S2 E28: The Benefits of Teaching Writing Through a Workshop Approach with Stacey Shubitz & Melanie Meehan
[00:00:00] Olivia: I am Olivia Wahl, and I am excited to welcome my guests today, Stacey Shubitz and Melanie Meehan. Stacey Shubitz is the Chief of Operations and lead writer for Two Writing Teachers. In 2007, I was thrilled when Stacey co-founded Two Writing Teachers with Ruth Ayres. The blog is widely followed and solely devoted to the teaching of writing.
[00:00:35] Olivia: In September of 2013, when Ruth stepped away from the blog, Stacey gathered a dynamic team of co-authors and relaunched with new voices, all dedicated to maintaining the blog's original mission. Stacey is a Certified Literacy Specialist and a former classroom teacher. Most recently, she's consulting and supporting school districts with professional learning around best literacy practices.
[00:01:00] Olivia: Stacey is the co-author of several professional books focused on the teaching of writing through a workshop approach. I will make sure to include links to her wonderful books in the show notes. Melanie Meehan is the Elementary Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, Connecticut. Melanie thrives in this role while being driven by developing young writers as well as human beings with curiosity, empathy, and responsibility for the world.
[00:01:26] Olivia: Melanie was a member of the writing team for the Connecticut Social Studies Framework and is passionate about equity and social justice. She has written three professional books focused on the teaching of striving writers and answering educators’ biggest questions about the teaching of elementary writing.
[00:01:45] Olivia: I will also include links in the show notes to Melanie's books. She's published articles in Highlights Magazine and won the 2016 Tassy-Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature. In addition to their Two Writing Teachers’ blog posts, I look forward every week to their Two Writing Teachers Podcast episodes and companion series, A Tip for Tomorrow.
[00:02:09] Olivia: Welcome, Stacey, and Melanie.
[00:02:12] Stacey: Thank you. Glad to be here.
[00:02:14] Melanie: Thank you. Good to be here as well.
[00:02:18] Olivia: Um, I'd love for both of you, before we launch into discussing writing, to share with listeners some of your most inspiring educators. Melanie, would you be willing to start?
[00:02:29] Melanie: Sure. I love that question. So, thinking about my most inspiring educators. You know, I think, and this is gonna - it's not a cop-out at all, but I think that the most inspiring educators for me are the kids who are the toughest to teach. So, I learn more about teaching writing and honing my own practices with the kids who have a hard time writing than I do with any other population.
[00:02:59] Melanie: They're the ones who keep me up at night, who are like making me think, alright, how can I do this job better? So those would be my most inspiring teachers in a lot of ways. And then the other way that I think about who inspires me is who do I think about and remember when I look back at a conference. And to this day, I think, um, the presentation that Katie Egan Cunningham was involved with at an NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference, I think it was in 2019, focused on joy.
[00:03:37] Melanie: And one of the big questions that she asked in that presentation, or one of the challenges that she gave in that presentation, was go up to children as you're teaching them with the mindset of what can they teach you instead of what can you teach them?
[00:03:52] Melanie: And that has been a phrase that has stuck with me since then that I've shared whenever I can because I think it's such an important and empowering message to have on the inside of your eyelids whenever you're approaching children. Like, what are you gonna teach me? What can I learn from you? Instead of the, the rush to deliver our, you know, upstanding knowledge that may or may not be terribly relevant to that child in front of us.
[00:04:22] Olivia: That's beautiful. That's beautiful. Stacey, how about you?
[00:04:25] Stacey: I'm gonna go back a very long time. My first-grade teacher in the early eighties, um, is probably the biggest inspiration to me. Um, I kept in touch with her years after I left her classroom, and there are so many things that she was doing in 1983 that were truly cutting edge. I did not have a name for a lot of them.
[00:04:53] Stacey: She passed away in 2002. Um, died very early of cancer. And over time, I found old pictures with morning meeting message charts. What was that? Like…I mean, that's what she was doing. She was doing Responsive Classroom stuff. Um, but I think what was even more important was that it was in her class that I became a writer. And I remember writing all these little books, and she used to put them in the library, and she called us writers.
[00:05:29] Stacey: And years later, I mean we were talking, I had had my first kid, so we're talking probably like 2012, 2013…I was on the phone with someone who was asking me to come consult at their school. And they told me that they had taught at my elementary school after I had left with this teacher.
[00:05:47] Stacey: And she said to me, you do know Carol was doing writing workshop, don't you? And I said, what? Like I, I didn't remember the words writing workshop. I just know that I became a writer in her class and that she valued writing. And I guess she probably put everyone's books in the classroom library. Who knows?
[00:06:07] Stacey: It's a long time ago. I, I actually broke down on that call and started crying because I was like, oh my goodness, look at what she did. She truly inspired me, and this is where I am today because of her. I actually dedicated my first book to her. Uh, I said to my parents and my husband, I'm sorry, I know she’s, you know, passed away a long time now, but hopefully, I'll write another book, and you'll get a dedication.
[00:06:35] Stacey: But I, I really felt like I owe so much to Carol Snook, and for the rest of my life, I will be indebted to her. And so, she is the person that I look back on and really think about as an inspiration.
[00:06:49] Olivia: I, I think so much about educators, how we have the power to inspire, and yet both of you were inspired by children and as a child by that notion of the beliefs that we approach every learning experience with joy and that we are writers, true and true, whether we're five years old, whether we're 45 years old.
[00:07:14] Olivia: So, I chatted with both of you, and an issue that I am concerned about, that I am seeing in schools is just a total mixed back and forth when it comes to how to teach young writers. I feel like we've got to work really, really hard to align what do we believe to be true about teaching writers with practices that we would see every day in the classroom.
[00:07:41] Olivia: And then ensure that research has our back. You are two cutting-edge instructors and coaches when it comes to the teaching of writing, and I am really excited for listeners to learn from both of you today. So Melanie, um, I'd love to kick our conversation off with having you speak to why is this a critical time in education to make sure our beliefs and practices are aligned with research.
[00:08:09] Melanie: You know, I think that it's always a critical time.
[00:08:13] Olivia: Yeah.
[00:08:13] Melanie: And we have a huge imperative to do our best for children. And writing is an important, I would say, a fundamental right that people have in order to communicate and express themselves and share stories and anything else. So that's where I would just say, you know, yes, there's shifts in technology, and there's shifts in beliefs, and there's all kinds of controversies going on in the land of reading, which certainly could approach the world of writing.
[00:08:49] Melanie: I'm sort of expecting it to. And at the same time, we have always had different shifts and different thinking and ways of, you know, to Stacey's point and thinking about her teacher and writing workshop being cutting edge when she was a first-grade student. There are always practices that are going to seem new or novel or different, but I think that the imperative is always to empower every student that comes into our realm the best that we can with the belief that they're writers and the capacity, and the ability and the skillset to express themselves however, wherever with whatever they can.
[00:09:37] Olivia: Yeah. Stacey, I so strongly lean on Ron Berger's Transformational Literacy. The 4Ts that he speaks to being tasks, texts, topics, targets. That's a tongue twister. Right? And then, um, as of more recently, Cris Tovani and other experts have added tending, like how do we actually tend to our children, um, and ourselves, and time.
[00:10:05] Olivia: You are the guru when it comes to workshop. And I have all of your books. I know a huge aspect of workshop comes down to time and how we're using that time. It's precious. So, I'd love for you to speak for listeners around how do we engage with writers during workshop through those 4 + 2 Ts.
[00:10:31] Stacey: Now it's a challenge to figure out which “T” to tackle first!
[00:10:34] Olivia: I know.
[00:10:34] Stacey: Uh, because they're all so important. But I wanna start with time because I think time is such a factor for so many teachers. There's never enough time. I often see that writing gets short shrift. Oh, we'll stick it in for a half hour a day, maybe three times a week.
[00:10:57] Stacey: I don't show up to a school district unless they're teaching four days a week of writing workshop for a minimum of 45 minutes per session. To me, it demonstrates your seriousness about writing when you devote the time to it. And I think anything that we devote the time to shows how important it is. So that, for me, is a huge one.
[00:11:19] Stacey: That is what I ask very early on when someone says, hey, we'd like you to come work for us. And I say, how often do you teach writing? I wanna hear that as an answer because it, it reflects something about their beliefs. In terms of Berger’s 4Ts, the topic, texts, targets, tasks. Um, I feel like writing workshop is really about choice, not unlimited choice, because, as Penny Kittle said, unlimited choice is no choice at all.
[00:11:47] Stacey: I hopefully got that right. Um, but when we give kids choice of topic, what they're going to write about, and it's within the learning targets and the standards. I feel like we really can move the needle forward because it's so huge for a child to be invested in what they're writing in, and if they don't connect with their topic or it's a topic that's given to them, forced upon them, maybe they have limited choice from the teacher.
[00:12:19] Stacey: The amount of buy-in is not there. The desire to work on the writing is not there. You really need to feel invested in your topic. Um, when it comes to texts, I think about mentor texts. My second book, Craft Moves, is all about mentor texts. I've been living, breathing, sleeping children's literature and mentor texts and how to infuse them into writing workshop ever since I was a graduate student years ago.
[00:12:45] Stacey: But I've been thinking about this for a long time because there is so much that we can learn when we are using texts as teachers, you know, we are not going to always be alongside of our students, and we have to empower them to learn from texts. So, when I wanna write something, be it a wedding toast, a eulogy, an article, it doesn't matter what it is, I am seeking out writing that is in that genre or that type of writing, and I am studying it closely, and then I am writing my own stuff.
[00:13:21] Stacey: When we can teach kids how to do that at a young age, we empower them so much. And then later in life, you know, they can be the ones who say, okay, I have to do an article, or I need to write some type of essay or letter to the editor. Let me study something. So, through those things, we can really empower kids in writing workshop.
[00:13:41] Stacey: And I do wanna say one thing about Cris's “tend.” The way that we take an interest in students in writing workshop is different than in math class, per se. When we sit down beside a student for a writing conference, we are sitting beside them and meeting them, writer to writer. And as teachers, we wanna be teachers who write and when we can sit alongside a child and listen to what they're saying about their topic, um, about.
[00:14:10] Stacey: The decisions they're making as a writer, and we can build off of that, talk about our experiences, but also respond in a human way to what it is they're saying. We are tending to kids. And I think that writing workshop is really unique because it allows us to give that tenderness to students. There are going to be days that we pull up alongside a kid, and they might be crying or they may not wanna write, and that conference is not going to necessarily move them forward as a writer, but that conference is going to allow us to connect with them as a person.
[00:14:42] Stacey: And when we do that, we allow kids in the future to trust us and to learn from us more. And um, you know, I remember the teachers throughout my school career, not just my writing teachers, but all subjects, all grades, who tended to me as a, as a human. Um, I still keep in touch with several of them, and maybe I’m odd in that respect. But, um, I was really lucky to have some teachers who really cared about me, and I think that when we tend to our students within writing workshop, we, we can teach them so much better.
[00:15:17] Olivia: Mm-hmm. I, I totally agree. And I think too that so much of our work, you know, we've spoken to the, in the classroom, the workshop happens inside of the classroom. Um, but a lot of our work magically or not magically happens behind the scenes. It's the planning outside of the four walls of a classroom or that fortitude of knowing where you're going with children.
[00:15:44] Olivia: Um, I'd love to hear from both of you. Melanie, you can begin. What practices would we see in and outside of classrooms with students and with teachers that align with our beliefs about workshop and teaching writing?
[00:16:00] Melanie: You know, before I get into that, and I will, I wanna just go back to the idea of the magic, and I don't know that I want it to be thought of as magic because I think that there's intention and there's work and there's thought that happens that is available to everybody.
[00:16:20] Olivia: Yeah.
[00:16:20] Melanie: And I don't want anybody to be listening to us and be thinking, I have to have magic or to do something in order to be a teacher who inspires writers…
[00:16:32] Olivia: Yeah.
[00:16:32] Melanie: … and gets them going because there's so many beliefs out there that people have that they are readers, but they are not willing to say that they're writers.
[00:16:43] Olivia: Yeah. I agree.
[00:16:43] Melanie: And, right? I think that to dispel the idea that you have to be a published author or you have to sit down and always write incredible things in order to be a writer. Um, I, I think it's really important to get rid of that idea.
[00:17:00] Melanie: You're a writer if you make lists. You're a writer if you jot messy post-its. You're a writer when you write a thank you note to somebody. There are many, many ways of being a writer and modeling and sharing that with kids. So, I do wanna just address that. I also wanna talk about how, as Stacey was talking about the 4 + 2Ts and how they relate and fold into the beliefs and the systems and structures of writing workshop.
[00:17:31] Melanie: I was sitting thinking about my own four guiding beliefs, and they all fold in so naturally, like no matter what framework you have for your beliefs, I feel like writing workshop is something that is, is such an important and natural way to structure and how kids learn to write and how anybody learns to write.
[00:17:55] Melanie: Writing workshop was part of my own experience doing my master's in creative writing. So, I would just say all of that. That being said, I think that it's like the perfect segue into what I'm going to say, and I bet Stacey could guess what it is. I think that one of the most important things that happens for kids, as far as the adults who are working with them as teachers of writing, is for those adults to do the writing.
[00:18:25] Olivia: Yes.
[00:18:25] Melanie: And to be writers themselves and to try out the tasks that they're asking kids to do and to take step backs and think, what was the metacognitive work that I had to do in order to put this piece on paper? And where did I get stuck, and how did I push myself through the place of being stuck? And what was scary about it? And what almost held me back, and what got me going again?
[00:18:54] Melanie: Um, just yesterday, I worked with a teacher writing and revising our literary essay unit. Like, ooh…one of the most exciting ones we do, right.
[00:19:05] Stacey: I love literary essay! Are you serious?
[00:19:07] Melanie: I, you know, it's, it's a hard one to get teachers and kids to be really excited about, and we were working hard at that. Like…
[00:19:15] Stacey: I get that.
[00:19:16] Melanie: It isn't the one that brings the joy in the same way that the graphic novels do, or the imaginative fiction or even information for that matter.
[00:19:25] Stacey: Yeah.
[00:19:25] Melanie: I think it's, it's a little trickier. That being said, at the end of the day, her big aha was, I learned how to teach this because you made me write it.
[00:19:36] Olivia: Ah, yes!
[00:19:37] Melanie: And, and she will bring that to the professional development that we'll do for the rest of the team. Presenting it and, and unpacking that for them. I think it's an incredible message to share and have, like, yes, you learn how to teach it by doing it and struggling your way through it.
[00:19:56] Stacey: To add on, you know, occasionally, I will get an invite from a school district asking me to do teacher as writer work with their teachers. Can you help our teachers learn to write personal narrative so that they have the writing themselves? And I'm like, okay, sure. I've done it for personal narrative as well as personal essay where I have basically spent several hours with teachers going through a unit of study, and they are flash drafting, they are writing right there.
[00:20:28] Stacey: And by the end of the session, they have a piece of writing that they can go off with. And it's aligned to their unit that they're going to teach. And it's always an aha for them, um, if they have not done this work before. And often, they don't because most of the school districts that I'm working with are often new to the teaching of writing, using a workshop approach.
[00:20:51] Stacey: But it's super powerful for teachers because they realize they can do it. And what I'll often say to them is: Hey! Don't do this work in isolation. Work with your grade-level colleagues. Work with a different grade-level colleague if you don't feel comfortable with your grade-level colleagues, but sit beside someone with units in hand and do the work you're going to ask your students to do.
[00:21:16] Stacey: Um, it is an investment. It's a time investment, but it pays dividends because when you're sitting beside students and conferring with them, you know what the process is like, and you have your own writing. We talk more about that on our podcast, and I don't wanna get too deep into the weeds with it, but I think that everything comes back to teachers believing that they are writers themselves and being writers themselves.
[00:21:40] Olivia: Both of you are making me also think about the writing process. We have to go through the process, and we can see then if we have a unit that's running four to six weeks, if we had to spend a lot of time collecting ideas, then we are definitely going to have to make sure we have that time carved for our students.
[00:22:02] Olivia: Right? I think we spend way too much time drafting, just putting it out there instead of focusing on developing writing ideas and then going back and revising. That process is everything for our children to understand that, revise, revise - it's our best thinking at the time. Get the draft out, but then go back and revisit it.
[00:22:23] Stacey: We have to stop saying that we hate revision. I, I know early on I would be like, ugh, I hate revising. I've done my best work through revision. And I think when we think about it as just re-seeing our work, and it's not like the tedious tasks, but we are just looking at it with fresh eyes. It does bring a new perspective to revision, and revision is really the heart of it.
[00:22:50] Stacey: So, if we can make revision more exciting, more interesting, um, help kids buy-in more, I think that we can really move that forward. And there should always be a process of revision happening. Even at the end of workshop, when you're going back and looking at something, you can revise. You can revise whatever you're collecting in your notebook; even if that means adding a sentence or two, that's okay.
[00:23:12] Melanie: I would also add that the writing process can look really different for different people, and it can look really different for the same person at different points. And the more that I have written and thought about my own writing process and worked with other people as co-writers and thought about their writing processes.
[00:23:36] Melanie: And watched kids and talked to them about it. The more I love to talk about writing processes and the variation that exists across them because not everybody does all of their revision on their draft.
[00:23:30] Olivia: Right!
[00:23:30] Stacey: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:30] Melanie: There are plenty of people who do their revision at the planning stage, and not everybody needs to spend as much time on editing because there are plenty of people who do their editing as they're drafting.
[00:24:01] Olivia: Yes!
[00:24:01] Melanie: And there are people who come up with ideas really quickly and are ready to write about them. And there are people who do need to spend a longer time thinking about their ideas and kind of verbally rehearsing with them and, and percolating those before they are ready to say, I'm gonna plan this and have a go and feel a little committed to it. And not every piece has to be polished and perfected and put out there into the world.
[00:24:29] Melanie: There are some pieces that we write that are for learning and learning things that are important for the next pieces that we might take on. So, I think it, it isn't that the writing process has the same amount of time or the same area space in every single piece. And, and I love talking to kids about that. It’s…
[00:24:58] Olivia: Mm-hmm.
[00:24:54] Melanie: It's a really, it's an important conversation, I think.
[00:24:58] Olivia: I think it is too, and something I love that we've been talking with a lot of middle and high school teachers about, and I think it pertains to elementary as well. How can we bring the audience in early on in the unit and receive feedback ongoing is writers from that audience? I think that's a really cool twist that I don't think I had on my radar when I was teaching.
[00:25:22] Stacey: When I've taught graduate classes on the teaching of writing, we spend ample time on audience and thinking about audience and, you know, using the audience and keeping them in mind at all times in order to make sure that they are top of mind. And it's not something that happens often enough in elementary classrooms.
[00:25:46] Stacey: And it's something that we can strive for and work on more with kids, um, because kids should have a say in who their audience is, and their audience is going to vary each time. Um, they write a different type of writing and a different piece.
[00:25:59] Olivia: Yeah, absolutely. I know as of late; I went back to my website and redid my bio page to be bio and beliefs because I want everyone that thinks about working with me for professional learning to know exactly what I believe, what practices they would see with students and with teachers, and then the research that I lean on heavily.
[00:26:20] Olivia: And one of the people that I do lean on heavily is Allison Zmuda and her work around the role of a teacher. It's brilliant. And I've actually had the privilege of living in some classrooms where the teacher hits all six roles within one workshop. It's amazing to see. And so, I'm thinking curriculum planner, classroom facilitator and coach, assessor, advisor, communicator, and connector.
[00:26:49] Olivia: That's research that I lean on when I'm planning a workshop. I'm fascinated to know more what research or researchers ground your beliefs and practices. Melanie, do you wanna kick us?
[00:27:01] Melanie: Sure. Um, so when I think about the researchers who are really involved in writing, and those are the ones that I would speak to, given the, the context of our podcast. Certainly, one is Donald Graves. He inspires my beliefs. I stand on his shoulders with mine. And you know, as you were talking about your beliefs, I have four solid ones, and again, they align to all of the Ts.
[00:27:27] Melanie: But you know, one that writers need choice. Two, teachers need to write. Three, they need a community. And four, they need time to write. So again, we could unpack that and align them to the 4 + 2Ts, but I think you would find a lot of connections. I also really love and admire and would say, get to know the work of Frank Smith, who is a psycholinguist who really talks about the differentiation.
[00:27:57] Melanie: He was the first person I read who talked about this with such explicitness, the difference between composition and transcription because writing is so complex, and we get caught up in spelling and conventions and handwriting and neatness, and those all matter. But there's also the whole element of ideas and coming up with ideas and having the content and creating the content and recognizing the importance in our own lives that we can celebrate and want to share or teach about, or stand on a great big mountain and shout out our opinions about.
[00:28:35] Melanie: I admire the way he differentiates between those two categories and, um, makes me think about it and communicate it to both parents and caregivers and other educators in a really meaningful way. And then I also lean into the research that Steve Graham is constantly doing and still currently doing because there isn't as much research on writing as there is reading. And he has done a lot of meta-studies about writing and what is really making impacts and what's important for the development of young writers and how we should be teaching them, and what is really making differences in their learning lives as writers.
[00:29:14] Olivia: Yeah, absolutely. Stacey, I'd love for listeners to learn from you. How are the worlds of reading and writing intertwined?
[00:29:23] Stacey: Ooh. I think that they are completely reciprocal, and I don't think you can separate them from each other. I remember as a kid telling my parents that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and they harped right back on me and said, well, you better start reading more. And I, I, I struggled as a reader, as a kid.
[00:29:47] Stacey: Um, it was a real struggle for many, many years and, I don't know. I'm sure there was some diagnosis that was missing, but bottom line I didn't become a reader until I was in my twenties, and I didn't believe what my parents told me that I had to be a reader if I wanted to be a writer until I became a reader.
[00:30:10] Stacey: And now, I mean, I, I read a lot. And I always have two books going, sometimes three. Um, and I, I, I feel like they can't be separated because when I find something in an adult novel or a non-fiction book, a type of writing I really admire, I capture that quote, and I save it, I, I have a document or an Evernote where I will put it so I can categorize it as like a type of writing that I admire and I say why it is.
[00:30:41] Stacey: And I go back to those snippets that I have collected from books, and I aspire to write like these people. I don't think it can be separated. And I think that for many students in elementary school, they do struggle as readers, and as Melanie has said, and I have really taken on this thought process - no one wants to struggle.
[00:31:04] Stacey: So, I don't call kids struggling readers, struggling writers. They are striving. Um, I am personally saying I struggled as a kid. I don't know that I was striving. But when we can help kids by providing them with materials that are at their just right level so that they're understanding what it is and they can aspire to write like something that they can actually read, we are making it possible for them to become stronger writers.
[00:31:32] Stacey: I have noticed with my own daughter in the past that she was being given texts to read that she could not decode. um, she could understand it if someone read it to her, but she could not look at it herself and decode the text. Well, what good is that? So, we need to remember that if we want kids to understand how to make reading and writing connections, we need to make sure that the books that we're providing them are accessible.
[00:31:59] Olivia: Yeah, absolutely. I was so inspired at NCTE a few years ago by Ellin Keene and her work with Literacy Studio (with that concept). Really thinking about, you know, what is the reading work and what is the writing work for children? And I see in so many classrooms this isolated reading workshop from a writing workshop.
[00:32:22] Olivia: And conversations I've been having recently with teachers are starting with the writing and asking what would the demands be for a reader with this same notion if they're writing a, uh, personal narrative, for example, how could we study characters and narrative texts to see how authors lead and introduce their characters, and then we could mimic that. So really trying to align the targets or the lessons, so it's streamlined in every way.
[00:32:53] Olivia: And opening up workshop to be really, there's reading work and writing work that's being done. What Ellin pushed me to think about is children choosing whether they're reading or writing on a given day and making sure that it's balanced over a week or over two weeks. I'm still playing with that, but I think we can see how we're meeting our children's needs in that way.
[00:33:15] Melanie: Maria Walther's book, The Literacy Workshop, is also a really great one to dig into. The one that she wrote, I think it's with Karen Biggs-Tucker. That's a great one.
[00:33:25] Olivia: I would love to wrap our conversation with both of you, speaking to our call to action when it comes to teaching young writers. Melanie, do you wanna kick us off?
[00:33:34] Melanie: So, as I think about my call to action sitting here in this chair at the beginning of 2023, there's a couple things that are coming to mind. One is that we are still living in the land of standardized tests and expectations for kids that are enumerated, and sometimes those expectations and standards lead to the constant over-teaching and under-practicing that happens in classrooms.
[00:34:05] Melanie: I think there's sometimes, um, emphasis on product as opposed to process and emphasis on getting pieces ready for publishing or putting out there into the world in a really formal way that requires the tedium of editing that maybe detracts from the joy of producing. And there's a balance of offering kids a lot of different opportunities to write pieces without the pressure of being perfect or the pressure of committing to them for a long period of time.
[00:34:42] Melanie: I think one of the things that I know about myself because I am a writer is that if I stay with a piece too long, I am ready to poke my eyeballs out when I face it. And I can take everything that I know about a writer and bring a freshness to it if I just start with a new piece. And sometimes, that new piece is way better than the other piece was.
[00:35:02] Melanie: But I learned a lot from doing the other piece. And that's an important thing to still be able to give to kids and allows them to work within their zone of proximal development without feeling the pressure of meeting every single standard for every single piece that's created and produced. And I feel like that's an important thing to keep in mind as you're working with kids, especially right now where there's Swiss cheese that exists and a lot of kids’ banks of skills, right?
[00:35:31] Melanie: Like at the risk of using too many analogies in one sentence, right? Kids have holes in their learning, and we have to give them opportunities to fill those in without maybe having to fill every single one in with every single piece.
[00:35:45] Olivia: Yes!
[00:35:45] Melanie: So that's one thing. And then another thing that is making me think a lot is this whole idea of artificial intelligence and how we can create writing pieces and, um, what is going to make it easier for people to create writing pieces, but also what is gonna be lost because we're doing that. And so, keeping in mind what is the value of writing and figuring things out through the process of, through the process of really struggling through writing. And thinking about your thoughts and, and wrangling with ideas, and having the joy of coming up with new ideas because you've processed through it through a writing system.
[00:36:36] Melanie: And that's where, while I think about three purposes of writing through the three genres, I think there's another really important purpose of writing that has to do with understanding ourselves and clarifying ideas. And I think it's gonna be really important that we continue to use writing and emphasize that writing is a way to do those things in order to, um, not combat, but work with the idea that we can ask a computer to write an essay about, I don't know, why horses are better than cows. I mean, I, I feel like that's coming, and we have to make sure that we know why writing is still an important process.
[00:37:19] Olivia: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:37:20] Stacey: I think in the elementary grades, we have to lay that foundation. I know that there are a lot of secondary teachers who, I don't wanna say are freaking out, but are freaking out about ChatGPT, um, worrying if this is dooming high school English. So, for those of us who work in K-6 situations, it's up to us to help kids understand that writing helps you think.
[00:37:48] Stacey: And in order to become a more nuanced thinker, we need to often write. It's not just about speaking. We write to grow our ideas. You know, I have been reading since that article came out in the Atlantic about ChatGPT. I've been reading a lot of pieces. Um, I've been looking at slide decks about it. Um, there are some really good ones.
[00:38:11] Stacey: Um, Dr. Torrey Trust has a great slide deck on what ChatGPT can and can't do. Ben Berman, who's a high school teacher up in uh, Massachusetts, wrote a fantastic piece about, you know, what this, what the implications are for high school English. And I've been tinkering with it myself. My daughter is on the verge of becoming a Bat mitzvah this summer, and the last thing she has to do is write her speech, and she is worried about it.
[00:38:40] Stacey: And so, I went in to ChatGPT, and I typed in write a Bat mitzvah speech for the Torah portion that she has, and it generated something. I printed it out. I showed it to my dad. I said, what do you think? He goes, well, like. This doesn't reflect her thinking about it. It doesn't have her personal connections.
[00:39:01] Stacey: But you know, we are seeing school systems like New York City Public School System banned ChatGPT on their computers. Well, kids have a computer in their pocket. It's their phone. So do teachers, I mean like, let's be real. Let's figure out how to work with this and help kids understand why to write so that they are not resorting to that and taking the easy way out.
[00:39:26] Stacey: But I think that there's going to be a lot of discussion and a lot of thought. And for those of us working in the elementary years, I think a lot is going to be on our shoulders to make sure that we are doing the job of persuading kids to understand that writing really does have value and it's important.
[00:39:43] Olivia: Yeah, absolutely. I've been inspired by the Two Writing Teachers blog for years and years and years. I look forward to the email every morning around 5:00 AM, and I was super-psyched to see the podcast come out. Um, this has been a dream collaboration with both of you, and your wisdom is just; it’s unmatched, and I'm grateful to have this conversation with both of you.
[00:40:09] Olivia: Thank you for being guests.
[00:40:11] Melanie: Thank you for having me.
[00:40:12] Stacey: Thank you.