They took turns reading out loud the freewriting they had just done in response to “The Lanyard,” a poem by Billy Collins.
The poem, which is funny and sad, addresses the futility of trying to repay one’s mother for her love: Most of the teachers’ responses pivoted quickly from praising the poem to memories of their own mothers, working several jobs to make ends meet, or selflessly caring for grandchildren.
So-called process writing, like the lesson Lyse experienced in Long Island, emphasizes activities like brainstorming, freewriting, journaling about one’s personal experiences and peer-to-peer revision.
Adherents worry that focusing too much on grammar or citing sources will stifle the writerly voice and prevent children from falling in love with writing as an activity.
First, she read aloud from “Bird by Bird,” Anne Lamott’s 1995 classic on how to write with voice.
“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind,” the memoirist writes.
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It would have something to do, she thought, with her family’s emigration from Haiti following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island. “You hope that by exposing them to great writing, they’ll start to hear what’s going on.”•Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress.
But she was struggling with how to get started and what exactly she wanted to say.“What voice in my head? “I don’t have one.”Lyse needed a sense of “ownership” over her writing, Ms. And 40 percent of those who took the ACT writing exam in the high school class of 2016 lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to complete successfully a college-level English composition class, according to the company’s data.