Slice of Life Story Challenge March 6 -Fostering Brave Writing Efforts

It is natural for teachers to want students writers to make progress. Unfortunately,it occasionally leads them to wrest control of writing away from students. As a result the methods used in some classrooms to teach writing convince the emerging writer that any control over writing lies entirely with the adult teaching it.  The teacher latches onto controlling topics like a bulldog latches onto a bone. This need to control  has it origin in their own writing history. Their actions are based on what they know about writing. Their teaching over emphasises the surface features of a text. It's about the writing, not the writer. Such approaches don't encourage brave actions on the part of student writers.

Every day I work with young writers I talk about all of us being brave writers. -Writers who are fearless. Writers unafraid of  words and ideas. Writers prepared to experiment and explore our thoughts and ideas. We celebrate problems solved and discoveries made in the course of our writing. I share my own writing life, revealing my thinking. If I'm brave, it gives these less experienced writers the confidence to move closer to the edge with their own writing. 

Being brave as a student writer means using the word 'fettuccine' rather than 'pasta' because that accurately describes what i was eating. It means a writer using 'plummet' rather than 'fall' to  describe what happened to the kite they were holding. It means Victoria, a Grade 1 writer wanting to write 'aquarium'  even though she was unsure of how to spell it, yet being brave enough to commit her attempt to paper. We celebrate these brave deeds with gusto!

If we, as teachers of writing encourage students to choose their own topics and genres, identify their audiences and make decisions about what messages they wish to convey, we foster the growth of self confidence -an important ingredient in the emergence of brave and fearless writers.

Brave young writers need brave teachers to support them. Teachers who joyfully share their  ownreading and writing lives. I am pleased to report I see a growing army of brave teachers when I work in schools. Teachers are stepping up to he challenge and joining their students on this important learning journey. Their actions are having an impact. 

think about those who have joined the Slice of Life Challenge for the first time this year. They too are risk takers and deserve support and encouragement. Their experience will provide first hand knowledge of the challenges student writers face every day. Wow, what valuable learning.


  1. We have genres dictated by state standards and even more so by the Common Core. We still give the kids choice as they explore narrative, persuasive, procedural, and research is tough, though, to find a balance between teaching them how to approach different genres as writers (and to have a go) and letting them free write in class. I see a need for both. What is your perspective on this?

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I no longer teach but what you wrote reinforces my beliefs. I find it interesting that today I shared a piece that one of my students wrote...a young man who struggled...hated school...but this one time, he was brave.

  3. I love the message you have today. It is one I try to instill in teachers that I work with as they try to implement writing workshop in their classrooms. Writing is about being brave and allowing the world to know your thoughts. I don't think they believe me when I tell them to teach the writer, not the writing.

  4. I am being brave by participating in the Slice of Life for the first time this year. I hope to inspire my students to be brave writers and discover their own voices, too.

  5. My students are participating in slicing this month. I have tried to encourage them to be writers as well. You post, however, made me think about the specific ways I can encourage them even more. "Fearless or brave writers" I believe I will share that with my students tomorrow! Thank you!

  6. I so appreciate your eloquent reminders of the young writer's perspective. It is so easy to forget, when you feel you know how to do something, what it is like to pump up your courage and try for the first time. Thank you!

  7. I love the idea of having to be brave to write what's in your heart. My students are starting to be very brave as they embark on their first challenge. In fact, last night two of them wrote very brave posts about dealing with the death of their friends. I was so proud of them for putting their feelings out there for all of us to see!

  8. Thanks for your own courage, to put your ideals out for all of us to read and consider, Alan. I believe so strongly that students gain courage by our modeling, as you wrote about sharing your own process, and by finding other models for them. It was great through the years when we found other adults in the school who would come in to write with us for a class or two. Thanks, Alan for the terrific words.

  9. Hi, Alan -- I love that this challenge brings me back to blogs I enjoy but struggle to make time to read regularly. The kids you work with are so lucky to have you. So many of the young people I taught in my GED classes couldn't hear anything positive I wanted to say about their writing. I would praise an idea or an unusual expression and they would shake that off and ask what was wrong with it ... too many years of having their work dismissed. But then seeing them make it through the term and read at the open mic events ... that was beautiful!

  10. Thank you for this encouraging post! As a 'young' writer (does 26 count as young these days?!), I greatly appreciate your commitment to living and teaching really does give courage to those of us who are still finding our voice, our way, in writing and in life.


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