Inspiring Curiosity and Wonder In Young Writers

If we want our students to exhibit curiosity and wonder then like all things related to learning, we need to model those very same things ourselves. If students appear desensitized to their immediate surroundings and seemingly locked in a drone like state that screen overdose brings, then we are charged with added responsibility to re-programme that essential sense of wonder.

It is a waste of much needed energy blaming the state of things. This amounts to kid blaming. Negativity breeds more of the same. We can’t complain about reluctant readers and writers if we are not leading the way with our actions. Continually lamenting the shortcomings of students is tiresome and certainly a waste of energy, if we are not shining a light ourselves. Every day, in every classroom there are moments worthy of celebration and delight. We just need to be looking for them.

Teaching is a performance art as much as anything else and performing with a sense of wonder and amazement becomes part of the deal. Each time we celebrate our wonder and curiosity; the small yet amazing things we notice, the greater the likelihood that our students will begin to feed off this energy.

When we write with our students we share the challenges and rewards that writing brings. When we share aspects of our reading life we expand their horizons; when we tell our unique stories, we expand their view of the world and arouse curiosity. We have all our unique stories. To this point in time, I have never met another human being who accidentally set an emu on fire!

Observation is vital to all writers. They go about their day with senses tuned. For this reason, bringing to the classroom the marvellous everyday things we experience is vital. It provides a foundation for the rich conversation that may transpire in such an inter-dependent classroom environment.

I once witnessed a man, dressed in a business suit enter the New York subway system and immediately do a hand stand against the station wall, before rearranging his garb and quickly disappearing into the bowels of the subway. Thirty seconds of wonder! My curiosity was suitably tickled. I spent the next few minutes of my journey considering his actions. I share these observations because I want students to be attuned to the weird and wonderful small moments that regularly present themselves. Moments present like ants and elephants, so we need to be ready. The subway was a wonderful place to view such spectacular moments.

On another occasion a man sat on a stool next to the subway steps dressed in a pure white suit. On the ground next to him, he had placed a small paint pot. In his hand he held a cotton bud. He periodically dipped the end of the cotton bud into the paint pot and then daubed a small black dot on his suit. Tell me you see that everyday? So many questions flood the mind when one witnesses such an amazing scene.

Back home in Australia, I now drive to work. However, that does not preclude me from seeing amazing things. I have seen people driving and simultaneously eating their breakfast. I have seen people nose mining when they think no one can see them. I have watched people singing with passion and movement as they sat waiting for the traffic lights to change in their favour. Writers are voyeurs. They like to watch and they record their observations. This is a powerful message to send to our students.

Sharing the excavated treasures of our reading; when we read like ‘writers,’ offers another building block in the development of a literate mind. If we consistently indicate through our actions that we are joyfully literate, and celebrate the wonderful words we encounter, our students are more likely to join us on this wonderful journey.

Recently a boy told me he was going to replace the word ‘fall in his writing with the word ‘plummet.’ A simple exchange that set bells and whistles immediately sounding in my head. This small moment made my heart sing! -As it should. This was cause for celebration and we shared it later with the whole class.

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