Talking about Writing

writing-kidsSupporting young people in their growth as young writers is one of the most important and complicated tasks that educators and parents manage in the early years of life. It is important for many reasons but the one that most often comes to mind is that is is essential to communicate thoughts and ideas effectively. I think that this is the reason that most often pops into people’s heads when they consider why writing is important.

There is another reason of equal importance and is often overlooked. Writing is important not only as a skill to be learned but as a tool that enhances learning and facilitates deep understanding. Think about how writing works for a minute. When you sit down to write, the words don’t just spill out through the pen, pencil, or keyboard. When you sit down to write an amazing cognitive task is initiated. You consider:

  • who am I writing to/for?
  • why am I writing this?
  • what do I hope to achieve?
  • what am I writing about?
  • what words will I use to articulate this message?
  • in what order will these words make the most sense?
  • in what order will these ideas make the most sense?

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Writing is incredibly complicated but it is also an essential mechanism that we use to reflect on our ideas, to refine those ideas, and in our attempt to communicate those ideas to others so that they will understand.

The review and rehearsal of information is a critical step in the process young people use to attach new information to existing information and, therefore, make sure that it “sticks” in the long term storage of the mind. By engaging young people in writing as much as possible, we actually engage them in thinking as much as possible.

The lesson is this; encourage and support young people to write as much as is possible throughout the day. More writing, more thinking. More thinking, more review and rehearsal. More review and rehearsal, more learning. Learning and learning how to learn is what we all want that for the young people in this community.

So, think about all of the ways that you can engage your young writer in the process of thinking and processing ideas and information.

  • If they have a special meal that they would like, ask them to write it down so that you remember. If they are a little older ask them to write down as many of the ingredients as they can remember.
  • If they would like a playdate with a friend, ask them to make a note of it so that you don’t forget. Ask them to jot down a few things they would like to do during that playdate.
  • Engage them in writing about their interests. If they like to build things, engage them in writing about the buildings and the designs of those structures. They might like drawing or painting, ask them to describe the painting or drawing.

There are a million ways to go about it but the bottom line remains the same. Every time they put pen to paper it’s contributing to their growth as a writer AND a learner.

Law, Public Policy, and Ben-Hem

information-300x300I was reflecting on November’s PTO meeting over the course of this week and I got to thinking about a portion of our conversation that focused on the laws and regulations that govern public education. This is an important part of our work and is increasingly important for parents to understand. These laws and regulations create the context in which much of what you see happening in our school occurs which, consequently, has a high degree of influence on the kind of educational experiences and opportunities children have access to.

Public education in Massachusetts is generally governed by federal and state law which is then operationalized via regulations set by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. At the local level it is up to the School Committee and central office to determine the policies and practices on the ground that will bring the laws and regulations to life. That is a bird’s eye view of the system from 30,000 feet. There are many, many thousands of details and dynamics at play and it would take me a thousand pages to begin scratching the surface of that complexity. Rather than diving into all of that, I would like to point parents and community members to a few good resources that provide national, state, and local perspectives on the policy and politics that impact the education of Ben-Hem’s children.

National Level Public Policy and Legislation

United States Department of Education: Law Overview

This website provides links to many of the key federal laws that govern the work of schools. There is a lot of great information there!

Education Week

This is a great periodical that provides a big picture look at public education across the United States.

State Level Policy and Regulation

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

This link will take you to the DESE’s press release archives. This is a good resource as it hi-lights some of the bigger picture work at the state level and provides lots of links to other resources for those of you who would like to read more.

Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC)

The MASC website is a good starting place to get a feel for how policy and practice take shape across the state. At the bottom of the main page there are recent articles with links to archives.

Local Policy and Practice

Natick School Committee

School Committees in Massachusetts are charged with setting district level policy, establishing the budget, and the hiring and evaluation of the superintendent. The School Committee is a great local resource for parents and community members. Their web-site is full of helpful information that is relevant to public education in the Natick Public Schools.

Office of Curriculum, Assessment, and Innovation

The Office of Curriculum, Assessment, and Innovation is best described as the brain and central nervous system of the school district. As it’s name indicates, this office is primarily responsible for the ongoing coordination, evaluation, and development of K-12 curricula in the Natick Schools.