Read to Write, Write to Learn

I want to take a moment to relish in the moment. My first draft for my ASCD Arias book is complete. I realize that it is a school night, and that I have started writing this post at 10:10 P.M., Central Standard Time. The mix of satisfaction and adrenaline will get me through the day tomorrow.


So why would I want to write, after I just wrote almost 10,000 words for this project? That number is actually relatively small – about 50 pages, as it is a short-form text. I think one factor is I can now write for mostly me, with a little consideration for my audience (see: You). I’ve written over 250 posts here. I love the comments, the shares, and just the simple idea that what I have to say can be available to anyone in the world. That alone is profound.

But to answer that previous question, I want to write because I love writing. And all of this blogging has come to some kind of a product. I have found with writing that at some point, I have to pull together the best of what I have to share in a concise and streamlined format for others. It may be a thesis, an article, an online contribution, or even a book. Although this is my second text I have written, with my digital book published last fall, I still don’t feel like an author. I’ve never taken a course in writing, and I don’t have an English degree.

Nevertheless, my lack of background has not dissuaded me from pursuing what I truly enjoy doing: Writing about what I am passionate about. The learning has largely come from the writing itself. I will post here, infrequently check out the statistics, and analyze why some writing I have published on my blog received more attention than others. Frankly, what I believe is the best of what I have to offer on my blog has not received the greatest amount of attention, and vice versa. While Five Cool Things You Can Do With Your MacBook Air continues to monopolize my views, it is the posts such as Swimming Without Water and Does Intervention Have to Be a Pull-Out? that did not garner a ton of attention but I continue to come back to as a learner and leader.

I think what this shows is that we have to write if we expect to learn, and we have to write what we want to write, or it will become just one more task to complete. Pulling ideas from different sources and experiences into one cogent piece is the best way I know to show understanding. When we allow ourselves the choice in what we want to write about, that motivates us to stay with the process and finish out the piece.

I am not sure what the point of this post might be, other than to document that I finished a project and I am now celebrating, at least internally. Anyone who has published something might laugh, noting that the first draft is only the beginning. I tend to disagree. What I ship off to the editor is as close as I can come to a finished product. My hope is that any suggestions will be minor in nature and easy to revise. If that is not the case, then I probably did not start with a good proposal in the first place.

If you, the reader, are considering a more substantial writing project, such as published work, I cannot recommend enough the importance of writing a lot for yourself online. Blogging is what has helped me more than any other practice, possibly with the exception of reading really good writing. This includes fiction as well as nonfiction. So read and write, and write to learn. Allow yourself to discover where this process might take you.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

2 thoughts on “Read to Write, Write to Learn”

  1. I enjoyed reading your piece about writing and its benefits. I have had the advantage of blogging for my school, UCDS in Seattle, for the past month. I have looked closely both in my classroom and within our larger school wide community for interesting events and thoughtful conversations to share. I believe like you that when we write what we want, we demonstrate and create for ourselves a deeper understanding.

    This reminds me what we do in my classroom of 3-5 year olds at our school. We write, even when some are just learning to hold the tools to make the marks on the page. One of our favorite writing times each week is called Weekend News. When the students tell about their weekend events each Monday they are reflecting back, highlighting an important moment and sharing it with others. They learn to make representational marks to create drawings as well as letter/sound representations. Some write pages telling about almost all of their weekend happenings others draw a sketch or a meaningful scribble and dictate their news as teachers record for them. While they choose what to tell about their weekends, their internal motivator to push forward through all of the difficult learning tasks associated with acquiring written language is impressive.

    Once the writing is complete we often play the game of “Guess Who’s News?” As they hear the news read aloud to them, they all have fun guessing who’s story is being told. This game has also helped comfort the cognitive dissonance they experience when trying to recall what letters makes the specific sounds they are searching for or why does my picture not look like I want it to. So whether they are dictating their story for a teacher to record or penning their 2nd page, the preschool and kindergarten writers in our classrooms are motivated and definitely stick to their work until it is done!


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