Slice of Life Story Challenge-Building our Writing Muscles!

Georgia is a young writer, -a fourth Grade writer to be precise. Today, during writer’s workshop Georgia made a comment that made my day! I asked students for feedback concerning the writing they had just concluded, and Georgia offered the comment, ‘The more I wrote, the more I remembered.’ Not wishing to conceal my joy, I rushed to the whiteboard and wrote these special words in large letters; identifying Georgia as the person being quoted. Georgia’s words were a powerful reminder that given the right conditions the developing writer’s ideas take flight!

Our little writing community had been focusing on developing greater writing stamina, going deeper into our writing if you like. In consultation with the teacher we had identified a lack of stamina in student writing and discussed the need for them to generate a greater volume of text and to do this we had to improve their ‘writing muscles, in the same way we had developed their reading muscles and stamina. It was important to eliminate any potential roadblocks to getting the writing done. We spent quite some time ‘getting ready to write’ with a range of pre-writing strategies. Students talked, made decisions about the most appropriate writing from for their ideas, made drawings, lists, and developed flowcharts. They identified characters, settings, time and plot as part of their planning. We wanted to set the writing up to be successful.

I shared with them the revelation that sometimes I write in quiet places like my study and at other times I write in busy places like cafes. ‘Sometimes I like to write with music playing in the background,’ I told them. ‘And today I’m going to play some music while we write. I want you to continue writing until the music stops. Let’s see what happens when we devote all our efforts to trapping our wonderful thoughts and ideas on the pages of our notebook. Let’s empty our minds of all other thoughts and distractions and see what happens to our pieces of writing as a result.’

And so, for the next ten minutes they just wrote. Boy did they write! Words spread across their open notebooks, gradually covering the blinding whiteness of the pages. They wrote, paused, and wrote again; their energy for the task, palpable. They wrote in silence. They danced with their pens.

When the music stopped, there were audible sighs of disappointment from a number of students. One student, Christina said, ‘I forgot where I was. I was lost in the writing.’ This was another wow moment!

 I invited the class to share their thoughts about what had just taken place. Many of the students were pleasantly surprised by the amount of writing they had achieved in the time. Their teacher also wrote and was amazed by how much she personally wrote as well as many of her students. They were proud of what they had achieved. ’It was easy to concentrate because there weren’t any distractions,’ said another student. Then, came the magical moment when someone asked, – ‘Can we keep writing? Can you play some more music?

-And away we went for another ten minutes of quality writing time. I left them with the challenge of trying this at home, not just in school. What a wonderful writing session this had been and what a magical start to my writing day!

*The idea of going for ten minutes of intensive writing on a topic came from reading Natalie Goldberg’s book, ‘Old Friend From Far Away’ in which the author regularly challenges the reader to write on given topics for ten minutes.

* The music I chose was Ribonare composed by Ludovico Einaudi from the album, ‘This is England.’ Students thought it sounded like the kind of music you hear at funerals, but they also thought it very calming…


  1. Love that: "The more I wrote, the more I remembered."
    That says so much about why we write, and how we make sense of the world. Thanks for sharing this inside look into the writing classroom.

  2. I'm with Kevin--I loved that line.. And it's true. If we could only convince more kids of that fact. My student love to write to music. As high school students I allow them to choose their own music by listening to their ipods or radio. But it does keep them writing

  3. I teach middle school, and they love having music on when they write. I do too. Most of the time, I choose the music because I want to expose them to a variety of genres and music from other cultures. Sometimes they grumble about my selection, but if I forget to turn it on, they always remind me.

  4. What a fabulous slice! Made me miss being in the classroom, and made me remember the quote a friends uses as the signature for her email: "Writing is thinking, not thinking written down." I am always and always having to remember that.

    Good to be checking back in with you again, Alan!

  5. Thank you for sharing. Your slice was filled with energy and joy.


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