Last Friday I was moody. No, I didn’t take it out on the kiddos. But as I sat at my desk during prep time, I found myself counting the minutes until dismissal and wondering if anyone would notice me leave with the students.
I spent the evening contemplating possible reasons for my mood. The February slump? Nope. The pile of unfinished tasks? Nah. Then it hit me.
I hadn’t written this week. I missed writing.
The odd thing about this feeling is that I only started writing (serious, regular writing) this past June. My blog has become part of my life – almost a living presence.
What does this have to do with the classroom?
In under a year, I have developed what Colleen Cruz refers to as a “writer-ly life”. As I have become a writer, my students have been more inspired to write.
Truthfully, no child groans when we begin writing class. Students are engaged and anxious to share their work with me. But I wonder what will happen this summer, when there are no expectations of publication, no explicit time devoted to daily writing. How can I help students take the step from engagement to self-motivation?
The map of writing curriculum is set for the year. I’m leading out the team in planning the first unit of the 2012-2013 school year. The first unit is about establishing a writer’s journal or notebook, building a collection of pieces, and taking one piece through the entire writing process. The lessons are based on the Lucy Calkin’s writing series – lessons that suggest writers glean ideas from people that are important to them, places they love, important life moments, important objects, etc. These lessons lay a wonderful foundation.
My issue is this: If I were a student going through these lessons, I would comply and I would develop good writing skills. That said, my writing journal would be filled with teacher-directed pieces. I’ve been reading Speaking of Journals: Children’s Book Writers Talk about their Diaries, Notebooks, and Sketchbooks. All the authors organize journals in different ways for various reasons. I’m more or less insisting that student journals take a particular format. By doing so, am I becoming an obstacle to students discovering their own writing styles and habits?
The other thing I wonder is the extent to which I teach a limited number of writing genres. Most of the year is spent teaching personal narratives, essays, poetry, and realistic fiction. What about blogs? Video scripts? Plays? Commentaries? How-to pieces? Letters and emails? Infographics? Would students write more independently if they were exposed to these other forms?
I realize this post is filled with more questions than answers – but that is where my head is right now. I’ve decided on three outcomes:
- Students create a journal or writer’s notebook that works for them, and reflect on how the notebook organization reflects them as writers
- Students experiment with various writing genres and reflect on which ones are most comfortable or most challenging for them
- Students take at least one piece through the full writing process.
The ideas are coming together as “stations”:
- flipped lessons for exploring blogs, book reviews, and online comments,
- book talks with the librarian and stacks for exploration,
- watching and learning from author interviews,
- a station with books by Ralph Fletcher and other authors who write about writing,
- iTouches or Garage Band for recording plays,
- video scripts to prepare for back-to-school parent night or day-in-the-life depiction,
- competitions like Kids4Kids, 500-word stories, 25-word stories, or in-school writing competitions,
- choose-your-own adventures
- comics, piclits, and storybird
- articles, essays, and magazines
If I expose students to all these writing forms and tools, I’m hoping that they will find one or two that “click” with them the way that blogging has “clicked” with me.
What do you do to bridge the gap between “engaged writing” and “inspired writing”?