Slice of Life Story - Developing Self Belief As A Writer

My mind is on topic choice this morning because nothing influences a child’s attitude to writing more than the choice of topic. If the child is given control over topic choice and if the teacher displays genuine interest in that choice, then there’s usually no limit to the effort the young writer will make. Young writers who are given this power soon develop confidence in choosing appropriate topics for their writing. They are engaged in thinking and preparing for the writing that follows.

Sometimes I hear teachers say, ‘They’re not good at choosing something to write about.” The logical starting point is, ‘What can you do to assist them to improve this aspect of their writing?

Actively teaching them how to make good choices, showing them how to identify a suitable focus for their writing, and harvesting ideas are good places to begin. Teacher modelling is critical to students making improved topic choices. They need to see us in action! They need to see how we narrow down the focus of our own writing. We also need to alert young writers to the potential that lies in everyday events. Learning how to monitor the world is an essential factor in becoming better at topic choice.
Anne Lindbergh said it all with her words, -"Writing is more then living, it is being conscious of living." Closer to home, a five year old, gave me further confidence that learning to monitor the world is the way to go when she quietly informed me, "I'm five now and I can see everything!"

In setting our expectations for writers we need to examine our own practice and provide active support to enable confidence in such things as topic choice to grow. Rather than lamenting what students can’t do, being joyfully literate means setting an example for students to follow

I compare this approach with that of my fifth grade teacher, who owned the topics and merely threw them in our direction each Thursday afternoon. No sense of ownership there. No confidence building in that approach. Very little thinking required. It did however influence many attitudes to writing. When teachers own the writing; when they control it so completely, it becomes merely an assignment set by an adult. -No commitment, no passion, and relief rather than satisfaction.


  1. I think sometimes the reason why students give me the line, "I can't think of anything to write about" is because it takes energy to consider (and sometimes discard) ideas in our minds. Choosing the topic is the first step on the long road of writing--finding that subject that you want to spend some time with does take effort and perhaps that's why some teachers circumvent that process. But you're right in noting that the choice is *theirs* and they own it--even if the writing's going bad and they hate their paper--they own what they've chosen. A real first step on the writing road.

    Terrific post--


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