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Notable Notes: Writing as Thinking

Notable Notes: Writing as Thinking

Written by Deanna Mascle
January 23, 2016

This Notable Notes was inspired by Irvin Peckham’s blog post “Writing What I Think.” It is a short post that I will simply include it in its entirety here:

I had a student say after posting her firsthand portrait: This is so different from high school writing: I can write what I think instead of writing what I think the teacher wants to hear.


I’m thinking more about “the essay” and the writing process. Of course we have to use the writing process when we’re writing for publication. But I think our field has been compromised by our ancestry–our origins in the literature department, that we have to teach our students how to write publishable work and in so doing have alienated them from the flow of writing–the kind most people do in their nonacademic lives. And in so doing, we may end up alienating students from writing, the same way we do with reading when we push them to read like literary critics instead of consumers who read for the pleasure of reading and getting lost in the worlds and words of the writer.


Peckham’s words strike at the core of what I believe as a writing teacher. Until we help our students find their personal flow of writing then they won’t succeed with school writing. Of course, a major part of the problem is that too many teachers are not in touch with their own inner writer. The National Writing Project will not lack an applicant pool any time soon. However, there are some wonderful teachers in a variety of content areas fostering writing as thinking. Let me introduce you to two different approaches to writing as thinking in the classroom.

Michael Yell uses two interesting strategies to promote thinking through writing: processing notebooks and magnet summaries. I love both of these ideas.

Benjamin Arnold uses writing to help his students learn more about themselves as well as each other before diving into reflecting on what they think about the world.

In “Writing is Thinking,” Sally Kerrigan encourages writers to get their thoughtful and thought-provoking words out there on the web, because we need more signal and less noise. We all need to encourage our students and ourselves in that regard. We cannot help to drown out the noise, it is too deafening, but we can provide alternatives for those who want to reflect and learn.

I consider teaching writing as a tool for thinking or reflection essential to what I do in the classroom and have the plethora of blog posts to prove it. Here’s just one: Notable Notes: Reflection Reprised.

How do you use writing to support thinking?

This post first appeared on my Metawriting blog where I post about writing, teaching, and teaching writing and regularly post Notable Notes featuring ideas shared by other education bloggers.