And recently we had the devastating realization that our kids weren’t doing as much writing as we thought during writing time. First we noticed that they sometimes appeared to be doing something we called the “slow play.” During the first minute of independent writing time they would laboriously begin to repeat the question, writing the first half of their first sentence. Then they would pause. Perhaps they’d go back here and meticulously erase, scrubbing the original introductory clause clean. Then write it again, verbatim. Pausing to think. Adding a word. Three minutes gone and not a sentence completed or an idea wrestled with. Maybe they weren’t writing so much after all.
To test this we collected notes and packets from classrooms-from some very good classrooms, by the way, where teachers engaged students in lively discussions of literature, where students engaged energetically, appeared to write with vigor for sustain periods and then discussed their thoughts with insight. Again these were classes that, from just watching, would have made you feel like success was near. Truly, though, it was in many cases a mirage, as we knew when we looked at what kids were actually writing all that time — half sentences and stilted thoughts and error after error.
What to do?
Read the whole thing here.