Slice of Life Story - Discovering Where Ideas Dwell

An exchange I had with a teacher just a few days ago has been on my mind since then. It is buzzing around my brain.
The teacher was at pains to tell me how her students were struggling to think of topics for their writing. ‘They never seem to come up with much, so that’s why I have to give them sentence starters.’ The word 'have' jarred in my ears.

I was asked to work with her students. ‘Could you demonstrate how writers get their ideas?’ I wondered if the teacher had ever considered this same question?
Had those young writers been asked to explore this same idea? I got the impression I was expected to fix them in some way. I felt strongly that the answer lay elsewhere. Had any enquiry taken place?
Demonstrating and modelling how we connect to the world around us is a vital lesson for our students. We need to demonstrate how we see the potential in things for writing each and every day. We need to demonstrate how we harvest ideas and how we excavate memories. Listing, brainstorming, discussing, questioning, wondering, sketching, mapping, musing, note making all form part of that critical pre-writing part of the process we need to share. If we teach with expectation that lacks support for thinking and linking, ideas will find it difficult to flourish. Instead of a brainstorm, we’ll be lucky to get ‘isolated drizzle!’ If writing is a magic act we need to take our students back stage and show the tricks that are hidden up the magician's sleeve.
Nothing influences a child’s attitude to writing more than the choice of topic. If the child has chosen it and if the teacher shows genuine interest in it, then there’s often no limit to the effort the child will make. Young writers who are given this power become confident in choosing topics for themselves. I compare this with the approach of my own fifth grade teacher who owned the topics we wrote about. She merely threw them at us each Thursday afternoon. There was little confidence building in that approach. It did, no doubt influence the attitude of many of those students in the opposite direction to writing.
My thoughts around this issue continue to bubble away...


  1. "Have" may have jarred your ears, but "sentence starters" completely rattled me.
    Thanks for nudging her towards demonstration. There is hope!

  2. Here's an essay on a young poet's journey and lessons along the way. Please read it here at

  3. I enjoyed your post. Your profile bio goes along with this perfectly as well.


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