Kids Deserve Writing Teachers Who Write Alongside Them

Another school year has commenced here in Australia and an increasing number of teachers have taken up the challenge of maintaining their own Writer’s Notebook.

Those who are just beginning to develop their writing lives often request examples of the types of entries one might gather when starting out. Entries, that will serve as examples to share with their students. Entries that will show students how their teacher interacts with the world.

I sincerely hope we begin to see the whole class topic, 'My Holidays' disappear as a starting point for writing! It saddens me when this happens. It frustrated me as a student. It has continued to irritate me as an educator and writer.  It sets the bar of expectation so low for your teaching, and denies what we know about effective writing instruction.

Much better that classrooms hum with rich conversation about what is important to write about for each individual writer. Time invested in pre writing activities such as -drawing, discussing, brainstorming, listing, planning and reading enables student writers to gather the necessary ingredients to write about what matters to them. These are the necessary preliminaries!

 The student writer receives a clear message from the teacher

 -I trust you to come up with ideas! I'm not going to tell you what to write, but I am going to do everything in my power to support you to find out what it is you want to say as a writer! I want you to find your true voice as a writer.

Because writers are essentially storytellers, time and energy must be invested in establishing this belief among our students. Encourage student writers to initially ‘tell’ their stories. Tell them more than once. Tell them to someone at home. This is rehearsal for writing. It will ensure that the words which eventually appear on the pages of their notebooks will be superior to the words teachers read when writing is offered with a cold start, and no preparation. Writers spend as much time thinking about their writing as they actually spend in the act.

All the time this pre-writing is going on, the teacher is  simultaneously sharing examples of their writing, guiding writers to find a focus for writing, asking lots of questions and establishing a conscious sense of community.  Ideas begin to float on a sea of talk.

So, I urge my fellow teachers to dive straight in and start filling the pages of your own notebook with words, drawing, maps, photographs, quotes and the like.  Your own writing is such a powerful model for your students. I urge you to take the risk. You must be a brave writer in order for your students to follow your bold lead. Writers make decisions. They take action.

 If you are experiencing trouble launching into your own  writing, maybe these ideas might prompt your thinking. They may spark a connection to a topic/idea you feel strongly about; -enough to get the pen moving across the page...

  I offer up these possibilities:

Write about the first book you remember reading
Create a Life Map to show events in your life so far 
Write an entry about one of the items on your Life Map. 
Write an entry over any topic of your choosing. Write about your personal opinion 
Write a response to a book you are currently reading 
Write about the meaning behind a treasured object - what memories do you associate with that object? 
Create a plan for a memoir piece
Write a memoir including all the sensory details and what you discovered about yourself from that slice of life experience
Make a list of your personal choosing. E.g. Things that take too much time
Write to influence - Choose an issue that is important to you, and write an opinion piece
Respond to an issue in the news
Write a short narrative about being sick as a child
Write about a place you would go right now and why
Write about something that was no fun at all
Make a list of things you still wish to do
Write about a time when you knew you were in trouble 
How did you spend your pocket money?
Write about an embarrassing moment
Write about your relationship with weekends
Write a list about things you don’t need
Write about noise
Write about silence
Write about pretending
Write about disappointment
Write about joy
Make a list of settings you have been in during the holidays
Make a list of questions you wished you had asked
Write about your feet
Write about your treasures
Write about something that has changed
Write about something you consider to be fake
Write about something you wish you could still do
Write and DRAW about a place that is important to you
Create a map of a place you recall from your childhood

Good Luck. Happy times writing...


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