Developing Reflective Student Writers


When we reflect upon our writing lives, it is a form of meta-cognition. We look back in order to discover. We may uncover truths. We may discover we are unconsciously skilled. We may also discover the need to redirect our energies. We may unpack important details or revelations to guide our writing lives forward. These are the signposts essential to writing development.

As teachers of writing, it is vital that we encourage the growth of these same understandings with student writers. We must assist them to have a level of awareness surrounding their own learning.

If we teach mindfully we can assist the inexperienced writer to learn how to think and operate independently. In this way, the young writer can be assisted to be aware of their thought processes. Attaining such a level of awareness will help them immeasurably as learners and in the process they will grow to become better writers.

If we, as teachers encourage student writers to use reflection as a thinking tool as well as a writing tool we make them more acutely aware of how they best learn. We empower them and consequently empower ourselves as educators.

Last week, I challenged several groups of Grade 5/ 6 writers to reflect on their writing lives and how they feel about their writer’s notebook. I was keen to hear their voices. I was keen to read their words of reflection. I showed them how I frequently reflect on my writing life by sharing entries across several of my notebooks. I encouraged them to discuss their feelings and attitudes about writing, before committing their ideas to their notebook pages.

What they wrote astounded me and It astonished their teachers. The words are most instructive. Here are some of their reflective extracts:

My writer’s notebook holds all my memories and captures all my ideas. I have loved writing since, well, since I learned to write. I keep my notebook near me at all times. When an idea pops into my head, I write that idea in my notebook. My writer’s notebook helps me to relax my mind. All the ideas pour out of my brain, into my ear and onto a page. Holding ideas in my mind for me, -makes me stress. It is like getting sick. My writer’s notebook is the antidote.
Nina

My writer’s notebook inspires me to be confident in my writing. For me it’s just like ‘splatting’ my imagination on to the page.
Jamie-Lea

As a writer my notebook allows me to express my feelings, especially when I have no one to express them too.
Namagembe

When I write I like to go to a special place. It is quiet and I can think easily, so I can concentrate on my work. My writer’s notebook means a lot to me. It always makes my life more interesting. When I read back, I can remember something and learn things that make me a better writer.
Ting

My writer’s notebook is always with me. When I am sad, I write in it to make me feel calm. My notebook is something important to me. I can write what ever I like. It is the opposite of NAPLAN. I have many choices of topics to write, many ideas to write. -My opinions, my adventures, my poems, my memories and more.
My writer’s notebook is like a friend to me. It understands me…
Sofea

I write for hours. It’s like getting my brain and putting it in a notebook. It’s like my words are crashing onto the pages. It’s like throwing words against paper. It’s like planting a small seed and looking at it as it grows into a big tree.
Akul

To me, a writer’s notebook isn’t something you have to do, but something you choose to do. A writer’s notebook is where we can express what has been boxed in for so long, and share it on a page. It is where we have our own opinion and our own unique style. Words just flow out onto the page. There are no limits when we write. There is no time frame.
Taylor

Reading helps me with writing a lot, because when I read books, it gives me great ideas. It gives me great words. It’s like the author talks to me and says, “Hey look over this, I have a great idea for you,’ and my mind just suddenly overflows with ideas.
Natarsha

What do I like to write about you ask?
Daring knights, beautiful princesses, ferocious dragons, trolls, tall castles, crazy foods, odd characters, peculiar places and anything else to do with fantasy.
That’s why my writer’s notebook  is special to me. I can write about anything, absolutely anything. My writer’s notebook lets my imagination go free without anyone telling me I can’t do that.
Georgia

When I am sad, I write in my notebook. I feel like it’s a friend. It’s always with me.
If I go to an  amusement park, I can write about how excited I am and if I go overseas to New Zealand, yet again I can write in it.
Jahvante

Keeping my ideas trapped in my mind is an illness. My writer’s notebook is my rescuer. Writing is my life, but there’s a door in front of it. My writer’s notebook is the key to open it.
Jaideev

In my writer’s notebook I write with my head not just with my hand. I write anywhere. It is fun to write. I’m full of ideas like dynamite waiting to explode all over the page.
Errol

My notebook is a place where I store all my ideas for my writing. It’s a place stores memories. It holds surprises. When I look back sometimes I get a fright. Sometimes a laugh.
Roshan

A writer’s notebook doesn’t have a voice, The words you write in the notebook gives it a voice. When I was six, I began to write about the relationship between my mum and dad. I still do in 2014. I love my writer’s notebook. Everything I write, I try and make it come from my heart. Whenever I feel upset or worried, I have to write it down, just to let it out or remember it.
Desire

There’s a door to a whole new life where you can share your imagination and feelings. It’s called a writer’s notebook. It’s your own house of gold and treasure. It’s where you can be you.
Rebecca

Writing in my writer’s notebook makes me feel like the queen of a parallel universe. The words are ready to go on the page. It’s only me though. No Mum. No Dad, brother or sister. Writing is a part of me that I never want to let go. It makes me who I am, not who everyone wants me to be. My stories are on lock down until I choose to reveal them. I love hearing the feedback. It lifts me to the next level. What would my world be like if I couldn’t express myself?  
Mariama

A writer’s notebook is like an ordinary book but a book filled with unforgettable pieces of writing. When I write it’s like a huge weight lifts off me and onto the page. I write because I get to have an alone time with my notebook. My pen just writes across the page like the world’s fastest car race. A writer’s notebook represents who you are, your creative thinking and your past- the good times and the bad times with my family and friends.
Elena

There’s a room in my head where all my thoughts, words and imagination come and meet, just like a couple on a date. My writer’s notebook where all these ideas fall in love… I get an idea, there’s a note rushing around my brain. It can be two o’clock in the morning and I’m crawling on my bedroom floor looking for my writer’s notebook! The words rush out of me and are inking onto the page as fast as lightning. When I write the words rush out like I’m spewing!
Sarah

When I write I give my words a voice. A voice that’s honest and true. I have to put my ideas on paper before they fly away like a bird. Ideas to me are bundles of joy. Putting them to paper is so exciting. My ideas are tree branches. They sprout and grow bigger.
Racheal




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