“We learn to talk from where we spend our listening life - We learn to write from where we spend our reading life.”
-Katie Wood Ray

Envisioning through Talk…Sharing Possibilities

From the beginning of time, people have told stories...stories of grand adventures, new discoveries, daily living, heroic events, relationships, hopes, and dreams. Children, with vivid imaginations and a desire to share their lives with others, are terrific storytellers! One of the greatest gifts to give young writers is the opportunity to form their stories orally before they put pencil to paper or fingertips to keyboard. It is common practice for children to begin with the prewriting phase of the writing process by completing graphic organizers, jotting down ideas in a writer’s notebook, or sketching out a storyline on a blank piece of paper. While these are all terrific ways to get children moving toward drafting, the opportunity to verbalize ideas and envision the possibilities through talk with others has the capacity to greatly enhance their writing efforts. In fact, numerous writing greats—Lucy Calkins, Donald Graves, Barry Lane, and Ralph Fletcher—have all said it is necessary for students to talk before beginning the writing process.

There are several benefits of conceptualizing the writing process as one that starts with talk:

  1. Focuses writing
  2. Increases engagement
  3. Encourages creativity
  4. Organizes writing
  5. Jumpstarts writing

Envisioning through Talk…Writing in the Air

Writing teachers write daily, read widely, and desire to share their writing crafts (and the crafts of fellow writers) with their students. Teachers often think aloud when reading to children to let them see and hear what happens in their brains as they struggle with difficult text, use repair strategies to better comprehend, and make connections. It is important that teachers also model what is happening in their brains as they envision future written work—the thinking, planning, and invisible drafting of possibilities seem within reach for young writers when they can hear what that process sounds like. Katie Wood Ray describes this process as “writing in the air” and like any new pursuit, it is crucial to show children how to do this if the expectation is that they, too, will write aloud. 

Envisioning through Talk…Living the Writerly Life

In order to grow as writers, students must first learn to read like writers. With teachers frequently demonstrating the interesting writing moves authors make across texts of all kinds (books, of course, but also magazines, travel guides, writer’s notebook entries, etc.) children begin to see that no single text is the only example of a particular craft. Over time, as children gain experience reading like writers and talking about ways in which authors create their texts, they come to understand that not only are they shopping for new ideas for future writing endeavors every time they read, but they can use those crafts purposefully for the kind of writing they wish to produce and share with the world! Talking with others about the crafts discovered in texts helps young writers to better understand why a writer uses specific writing moves and, in turn, how students can use those crafts to boost current and future writing attempts.

Guest Post by Debbie Linville
Dr. Linville has been teaching for over 30 years and her passion is enabling educators to promote the proficient, joyful reading and writing lives of children.