Jottings From A Writing Life

The following random writing thoughts are gleaned from various sources connected to my writing life- my notebooks, blogs, Twitter, Facebook. They represent some of my recent writing related activity in these places. I share them to demonstrate the broad and enduring influences upon those of us who choose to be, teachers who write:

When young writers doubt their abilities they often set low goals, choose easy tasks and conduct little or no planning. When they hold strong beliefs in their own capacity to write, they generally engage more readily, focus their attention and choose to engage. This is why developing a sense of agency within student writers is so important. We must champion independence and a sense of belonging to achieve this important goal. It is central to performance.

Teachers don't just teach student learners skills. The word choices teachers make determine the health of that learning community. When teachers create safe classroom environments, they not only build competence, but nurture the growth of secure, caring and curious learners.

When writing formats are foisted upon student writers, ownership of the task is greatly diminished. The control is external and the response, often perfunctory. No surprise really.

Penny Kittle reminds us that when it comes to having a writer’s notebook, placing an emphasis on collecting thinking and observations is the way to go. If you want to write, it’s a marvellous place to start. Let’s go beyond the notion of simply collecting seeds.’

Ownership is vital if we want student writers to be truly engaged. They must own topic and the form of the writing. Thinking and decision making must be nurtured in the writing workshop.

Commit to reading more. Children read more when they see other people reading. Parents and teachers who are visible readers are more effective at engaging kids with reading.

If students view their writer’s notebooks as just another ‘work book’ then sadly, the integrity of this writing resource has been compromised. If teachers place a value on their own notebook, this is less likely to occur.

Teach student writers to reread their older notebook entries. It's where treasure lies hidden. New ideas disguised within older words. Encourage them to go rummaging for new inspiration. Show them how you do it too.

Writer’s notebooks need to be viewed as more than places to gather 'seeds.' A notebook is a place for germinating those seed ideas. It should contain many beginnings. It's a place to experiment / expand thinking around writing. It's a launching pad. Kids deserve to know this.

Pen licenses - what a waste of time & energy. Such a power trip. During a lifetime in education I have always viewed it as a controlling mechanism. Better to push the belief- that whatever you choose to write with-make it reader friendly. Maybe being left handed shaped my view.

In the world of classroom seating plans, where kids are regularly told to sit and follow set directions, initiative gives way to compliance. It is hardly surprising they struggle with the concept of creative critical thinking. Striving to achieve power with students, not over them must be the end game.


  1. Excellent post. I will be going through a few of these issues as well..


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