This is the first in a series of guest posts by local innovative educators. Thanks to Piaf Azul, director and teacher at Harmony Homeschool, for kicking off the series.
For beginners, writing can seem like just an exercise in hand-eye coordination (penmanship) and memorization (sight words). But that’s not what writing is at all. It’s art: communication, self-expression, the creative process. At Harmony Homeschool, we change the paradigm with Writer’s Workshop. At first, the kids are often dubious, but soon they are eagerly clamoring for a chance to share their latest writing with the group.
The way we get from Point A (Does my a look round enough? Are there two l’s in hello?) to Point B (And then the dinosaur and the kitten flew away . . . ) is through invented spelling. One of the tenets of Writing Workshop is to just get your ideas on paper, using your best guess.
It’s hard at first for kids to break their habit of asking, “How do you spell ______?” every couple of words, but eventually they begin to write on their own. A hushed feeling of concentration descends on the group. Invented spelling gives children the freedom to experience writing as meaningful, the way any author does. Don’t worry; they will learn correct spelling eventually, through editing and through individualized spelling lists pulled from their writing.
At the end of the semester, we invite the parents to join us for an Author Share, where the kids read their stories to the audience. The looks on their faces as they command everyone’s attention make it clear that they understand that writing is power!