Summertime And The Writing Teacher

The Writes

 of Summer

Another school year is drawing to a close in Australia and in many schools planning for 2017 is underway. It seems timely to appeal to teachers and urge them to take up the challenge of being a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. Join an ever expanding number of educators who write for and with their students. Teachers who lead by example and can confidently look their curious learners straight in the eye and proudly announce- 'I'm a writer, just like you.'  

Entries gathered in your very own writer's notebook  serve as examples to share with their students. Entries that show students how their teacher interacts with the world. It sends a clear message that as a teacher, you value writing.

Such entries are rich, varied and authentic examples of writing.  Such writing might lead to the extinction of the whole class topic, 'My Holidays' as a yearly 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 most to them. A sea of talk lays a great foundation for launching the goal of establishing a community of writers.  

 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. This must become an established belief and practice for writing to flourish in your classroom.

All the time pre-writing is becoming an established practice in the classroom. The teacher is  simultaneously sharing examples of their writing as well as great examples from quality literature, guiding writers to find a focus for writing, asking lots of questions and establishing a conscious sense of community.  

So, I urge my fellow teachers to dive straight in and start filling the pages of your own notebook with words, drawing, maps, adding 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. You have an entire summer break in which you can go collecting, gathering, harvesting your writing ideas. Spread them out across the pages of your very own notebook. You could find many reasons to avoid writing or you could find the one important reason you need to get started. Dive straight in, the water's fine. After all, it's summertime ...

Those who are just beginning to develop their writing lives often request examples of the types of entries one might gather when starting out on this journey of discovering.

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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