I’ve been thinking about what I believe about writing lately, in the middle of writing my dissertation proposal and teaching an undergraduate elementary course on writing methods. Lately, all I can think about is writing.
My research focuses on English Language Learners and their literacy and language. I taught second and third grade in Texas and in Monterrey, Mexico and most of my students have been language learners. In my work with pre-service elementary teachers, I think about how I can teach writing as well as elevate awareness to the linguistic needs of students in their classrooms. As a result, I have ALWAYS thought about language and learning and I continue to explore what it means for our students and their teachers.
But funny enough, after all this thinking about language, I believe literacy, writing, and meaning-making opportunities for the increasing number of multilingual students in our classrooms needs to be MORE than JUST language! Writing is a powerful tool in making and representing the thoughts in our heads and making sense of our world- but written language cannot be the only mode we use in our classroom.
I talk to my university students about how important it is to let their future students talk and draw in the writing workshop. As we explore our own writerly lives, I encourage them to perform or sing their own writing- to step away from traditional essay, narrative writing to experiment with visual, audio, and other elements of representing their ideas. Most students are uncomfortable with this and to be honest, most students rely on written language to express their ideas and it’s absolutely okay. (I’ve turned some students to poetry recently, which feels like a small victory).
What I really believe about teaching writing and being a writer is that written language is just ONE of the modes we use- and to reject other modes is a disservice to any student, and especially for students who are learning a new language. Using other modes (visual, audio, spatial, gestural) helps multilingual students make and represent meaning while they take on the challenging linguistic demands of learning in a new country and school.
Emily Zuccaro is a doctoral candidate at the University of Louisville studying elementary literacy education and language learning. She loves coffee shops and libraries and walking the Big Four Bridge. She is supported by her boyfriend, Tyler, their son, Brinley, and their two cats and dog. You can follow her on Twitter @miss_zuccaro.