I love writing to learn. I don't remember doing it in school but I do it for myself whenever I'm learning something that may be confusing or challenging. I also like to write about decisions I need to make. Somehow putting things down on paper takes some of the emotion out of decisions--it allows me to focus on the facts. In my first grade class, I have a small group of students who can read very well. We are going to try reading journals with them and a small chapter book. I am hopeful it will work well. They are accustomed to writing daily although a lot of it is done together. I love the comment about how writing is a conversation on paper. That is a wonderful point of view. The children do need to feel safe in order to write. At the beginning of the school year, most first graders cannot spell many words. I tell them that spelling isn't important but it takes time for them to believe me (and to convince their parents that they are learning even though we are not focusing on spelling). It is a wonderful feeling when the class will just get busy writing without worry.
Week 3 - Writing to Learn
For me, one of the most powerful shifts that I made as both a writer and as a teacher of writing is when I began to think about writing to learn, writing as a tool for learning, rather than just as a product of my learning.
Once I did so, I was freed to use writing as a tool for exploration and thinking and wondering and all sorts of stuff that I didn't think the papers I nanded in as a student were allowed to be. That idea changed me.
Here's a fine and short definition of writing to learn provided by Colorado State University's Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Clearninghouse. Better yet, here's a short list of writing to learn activities. (There's plenty more of interest in the WAC Clearninghouse. Feel free to wander around.)
Let's talk a bit about how you encourage writing to learn in your classrooms. Maybe you've never thought about this before. Perhaps you always do. But in the comments to this post, let's chat about how you are responding to the idea of writing to learn.