Making The Write Start in 2016 Part 1

The new school year is on the horizon in Australia.
I have prepared a series of posts to assist teachers to launch writing in their classrooms in the early days of the new school year. Hope you find it helpful in presenting your writing program in 2016.

 I can say this with full confidence; every teacher possesses the potential to be the most influential writing mentor students will encounter in any school year. You don’t have to be a published writer to successfully mentor young writers, but you most certainly need to be a teacher who writes. You must be someone who makes time to write. Someone who keeps a writer’s notebook. You must be someone who understands the challenges and the joys of writing.

I frequently use the following analogy to explain this teaching challenge. ’You can sit safely in the boat and urge them to swim faster, or you can join them in the water and assist them to keep their heads above water and develop more confidence as a result of your support and presence.’

Attitude is everything. If you present as a brave and fearless writer, chances are your students will replicate your courageous stance. You will be joining them on a learning journey. You will be doing what they are doing. Your credibility will skyrocket. So will student engagement. Levels of teaching satisfaction will be greatly enhanced.

When you make a decision to share your writing life, you are helping to build a sense of community and risk taking, and risk taking is essential for creating a classroom where writing is seen to flourish.

On day one of the new school year you can set the ball rolling by sharing your notebook. Talk about what it feels like to be able to collect ideas in this special book. Let them know where you found your ideas. Share insights regarding your particular writing territories and influences. Leave them in no doubt about your writing intentions.

Read some entries and invite questions and responses.

Assure students they will be given the opportunity to create their own writer’s notebook. Choice actually begins here. Each writer should be afforded the opportunity to choose a notebook that best suits their individual needs as a writer.  Every notebook will be different because every notebook should reflect the individual writer’s focus and style. Students should be encouraged to develop a vision regarding the kinds of things fellow writers might see them working on in the notebook. Have them talk in small groups about the possibilities for their writing.

Once every student has a notebook of their choosing you can invite them to further personalize the books. Encourage them to decorate the covers in ways that reflect their interests and passions. Suggest they begin by gathering the materials- words, pictures, drawings, photographs, tickets, cards they need to create a unique cover design. They might gather these materials at home and bring them to school in order to complete the task of placing shaping, cutting, gluing and covering their notebook covers- front and back. This task is a further statement of individuality and intent.

The first entry is most important. I will deal with this in Part 2 of Making The Write Start in 2016


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