We’re Writing a Book! (pt. 2)

If you missed the previous “We’re Writing a Book!” post, you can read part one here.

After two weeks of writing a book in class, I don’t know who’s learned more: me or students.


Week One

This is not going as planned.

After one week of writing a book in class, not much happened other than ideas being shared. It was really hard for me to not just jump in and start telling students what they need to do because I want this to be their book. I’m having a hard time finding the balance of suggesting ideas and suggesting ideas. This is a tough balance for me.

To help get some ideas for balancing the text and video inside our book, I emailed Patrick Carman for ideas. Most of my students have read the Skeleton Creek series and loved it! (If you haven’t read the series, you should.) Patrick wrote us back and gave us some great tips. It was a cool experience for my students one, because they didn’t think Patrick would write us back, and two, Patrick helped show the importance of using best practices when working on something new.

After a few days of the writing process, I kept finding myself struggling to just tell students what to do, so I adopted the mantra, “I will answer the questions you ask,” and many of my students began asking some awesome questions! Because I like to be in control, I tend to give answers to questions students haven’t even figured out how to ask.

Isn’t learning to ask the right questions a really important skill? If so, who in my class asks more questions– me or my students? Ouch.

Lesson Students Learned: How to ask the right questions (and more of them).

Lesson I Learned: Give students more opportunities to ask questions. Let their questions drive instruction.


Week Two

Compared to the first week, week two was much better. I set a rough draft #1 due date, and my classes came through. It truly was a rough draft and needed A LOT of work! I projected the book and we read it as a class while students pointed out corrections that needed to be made. This was tough for many students because I wasn’t the one judging the quality of the work– and it wasn’t private.

Before we began the “constructive criticism” in class, I coached my students through the art of giving and receiving criticism. That’s a tough skill to master. As we went through the book and students began voicing their opinions, I hovered over the conversation like a cobra ready to strike at the first scent of personal criticism. But nothing happened. In fact, it was the recipient of the criticism who needed the most coaching. It’s tough to not get defensive.

Lesson Students Learned: Use constructive criticism to improve without getting defensive.

Lesson I Learned: I am not the only one with an opinion in the classroom. I need to give my students more opportunities to share, lead, give criticism, and accept criticism– as long as it’s constructive.


What’s next?

After reviewing the first draft, it’s time to really get to work. Students have new goals, deadlines, and ideas to work on. We’re starting to see a book form and it’s getting exciting. I’m still trying to stay out of the process and coach students along. Again, this is so challenging for me because I like to be in control. I’m learning to find the balance. I’m also learning that this whole writing a book thing is way more than writing a book. My students are learning some serious lessons about accountability, communication, collaboration, leadership, and questioning.