Friday, October 22, 2010

A Great One Passes On

Professor Donald Graves passed away on Tuesday 28th September 2010 from pneumonia aged 80. 
I have many of his books and consider them timeless observations of children and writing.  It was his close observation of children that brought forth some of his greatest insights:
  • Like adult writers children must be given the chance to choose their own topics, to have an environment in which writing is encouraged and facilitated, to take greater control of their writing.
  • They must have 'real' readers - people who read their writing to hear what they have to say, not just to correct their spelling and grammar.
  • Children must be allowed to make mistakes, to use approximations in draft writing and to become risk-takers in writing.
  • As teachers we need to shift our attention from simply product and the surface features, to an equal concern with process and meaning.
  • To teach young writers is to teach them the craft of writing.
  • Spelling and grammar are best taught in the context of meaningful writing not simply as decontextualised activities.
  • Teachers (and parents) must become observers of young writers, asking them questions that teach and that focus their attention on meaning not just the surface features of writing and neatness.
  • Writing is about revision and re-writing and that like adult writers, children often need to 'make it messy to make it clear'.
  • He also shared his practical tools for encouraging writers - folders for first drafts, dates to track development, writing conferences, celebration of authors, 'publishing' children's work, blank books in the hands of preschool children with the instruction, 'Why don't you write' and so on.

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