Launching Your Writing Program With Bold Intent in 2018

Another school year is on the horizon in Australia...
To assist teachers launching writing in their classrooms in the early days of the new school year, I offer the following support. Hope you find these ideas helpful in commencing your writing program in 2018.

My sincere hope for this year, is for student writers to encounter teachers who are focused on how to write, rather than what to write. In order for this to occur, teachers of writing must be prepared to commit to being writers too. Writing alongside your students sends a vital message regarding the importance of being someone who chooses to write, and sees value in such acts. it will immediately elevate writing in the minds of impressionable, curious learners. I urge you to be bold and brave. Become the risk taker you want your students to be.

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 do not have to be a published writer to successfully mentor young writers, but you most definitely 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.

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, -an authentic and credible partner in learning. You will be doing what they are doing.In this scenario credibility skyrockets, -so will student engagement. Levels of teaching satisfaction will be greatly enhanced. Teachers who make this transition frequently inform me how much more satisfaction they derive from teaching in this manner.

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

On the first day of the new school year  expectations for writing can be set the most proficient writer in the room sharing their 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 attitude to writing and what writing has taught you.

Read some entries and invite questions and responses.

Assure student writers they will be given the opportunity to create their very own 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.  One size doesn't fit all.

Every notebook will be different because every notebook should reflect the individual writer’s focus and style. It starts out empty and begins to fill with the gatherings of the writer's life. We must teach the inexperienced writer to be a close observer of the world and all it offers. Notice and note is the catch-cry they must hear. 

Students should be encouraged to develop and articulate a vision regarding the kinds of entries fellow writers might see them working on in the notebook. Have them talk regularly in small groups about the possibilities for their writing. Everything floats on a sea of talk.

Let student peruse your notebook for ideas. Writers share.

Once every student has a notebook of their choosing, you might invite them to further personalize the books. Suggest they begin by gathering the materials- words, pictures, drawings, photographs, tickets, cards they need to create a unique cover design. Encourage the decoration of notebook covers in ways that reflect their interests and passions. This further enhances ownership and connection.It is a statement of individuality and intent. I still do this after more than thirty years of note-booking.

My two most recent notebooks

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. The first entry is most important. It sets a tone and establishes expectations for the notebook writing.

I leave you with this quote from Virginia Woolf when referring to her notebook. 
'... something loose-knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that might come into my mind.'
Here's wishing you and your curious young learners a most rewarding year in writing. 

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