This week’s blog post is about Wide Reading Plus+. I continue with the topic of wide reading, but now we add another step.
The above mechanics of writing are not stagnated. The creation of any writing piece is fluid; it takes thought, plus the extensions of that thought via the hand and pen or hands and a keyboard. My main argument in this post is that the physicality of holding a pen and writing words on a page is far more beneficial to developing student confidence in writing than typing those essential words on a keyboard. I’ll explain why in this post.
Reading is about memory; we need to remember what we’ve read as we’re reading to follow the story or main point, but more importantly, we need to remember what we’ve read to be satisfied by the conclusion of the story. This point applies to fiction and non-fiction. You wouldn’t be able to read and enjoy a novel that failed to conclude or give some form of a conclusion. You wouldn’t read a newspaper article that was unable to complete itself in some way. We need to know the what, when, why, who, and how every time something is read.
Students need to exercise their metaphorical memory muscles on many levels. Our very intelligent brains store the memory of how our pen and hand can shape words and meaning on a page for an audience. The art of the pen moving across the page is the result of millions of little synapses in our brain, a myriad of neurological pathways and signals lead us to write with a pen and bring life to what we think or believe. Words. Sentences. Ideas. Ideas. Arguments. Descriptions. Dialogue. The list, as mentioned earlier, is the mechanics of writing itself. The list is also when writing becomes what it is meant to be, whether that be a chapter from a book, poem, letter of complaint, report, or review.
Practising the muscle memory for the connection between the pen and the hand is much more straightforward than you’d perhaps believe. I encourage students to select one article or one chapter of a book from their wide reading list and write it out in full. No. I’m neither recommending nor endorsing plagiarism. Students can further develop their understanding of writing outside the classroom by practising a range of strategies. Wide Reading Plus + is a suggested strategy for independent students who don’t always respond to their teacher’s instructions. To master any skill, it is wise to seek guidance from the master rather than the minions.
To learn to write you go to the source. Cut to the chase. Bypass underlings and go straight to the boss. In other words, go to other writers to learn how to write. Chefs learn to cook by using someone else’s recipes, in addition to their kitchen training. They learn, they see, they do. Music students learn from their teacher, an expert, but also through other musical compositions written by others. They learn, they see and hear, they do. Surgeons learn first in the lecture hall and then in the operating room. They read, they observe, and then they do. Surgeons don’t just happen. Musicians don’t just happen. Writers in training, aka students, should access various sources when learning how to write well. By practising and writing out lots of different chapter books or newspaper articles or journals, they expose their brain and their muscle memory to the all-important pace and flow of different types of writing.
We learn from writers surreptitiously. We often don't realise what we learn as we read. Learning to write well is about understanding a writer's purpose, the requirements of the piece, in addition to knowing how to compose a text that flows. Pace, flow, and syntax- a necessary writer's toolkit- are challenging to teach. Realistically, you can't teach it, but you can give students strategies and pathways to find it for themselves. To improve a student's writing, the student must take ownership of exactly how they will learn to write well. Plan 2 Write teaches not just the mechanics of writing but encourages students to develop their toolkit over time. This is my point. You learn word/sentence pace, flow, and syntax by writing what others write. Your writing will be influenced unconsciously or consciously by how another writer has used listing, or adjectival prose, or short and long sentences for dramatic effect. I've utilised some of the techniques mentioned earlier in my writing of this post. Did you notice where I used listing? Where I used short sentences? Where I wrote conversationally? As though speaking to you? Did you see where I used 'You' and where I used 'I'?. Plan 2 Write tutors use explicit strategies, such as Wide Reading Plus+, to help your child identify different writing techniques for different text types by examining and discussing the student's pieces of writing.
Students who are learning to write need to read widely and often write to maximise their learning potential. At least once per week, they need to write out an entire article or chapter from a book (or more often if time permits). Students from Year 4 or 5 onwards could complete this task. The earlier in the student’s academic career, the better; however, Wide Reading Plus+ could be undertaken at any stage before Year 12 and still achieve success.
In summary, here’s what I suggest:
Encourage your child to read often and widely from a range of sources.
Once wide reading is a part of the student's established reading routine (For example, a fiction book per week and a feature article from The Good Weekend), introduce Wide Reading Plus+. The student writes one chapter from their fiction text and an entire newspaper, magazine, or journal article out in full.
Students need to write. They have to pick up their pen and write using one of the strategies listed above. They need to learn from other writers, not just from their teacher. Remember that I’m not suggesting that this is the only way to learn. This pathway is a suggested path for students who struggle to bring meaning and understanding to their own writing toolkit.
In my next article, I’ll talk about moving beyond Wide Reading Plus+ and how students can improve their writing through analysis and review of what they’ve read.
Plan 2 Write offers support for students who struggle with writing, and we encourage you to contact us with questions you may have. We tailor all learning plans to the individual student to maximise their potential as writers. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.