Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Start Write Here

So where to begin...I have so many thoughts on writing, I want to begin everywhere at once, but logistically I can't, so I'll just begin writing. A strange way to start my blog? For me, no. It's perfectly imperfect. That's what writing is: perfectly imperfect. When we write, we have to start somewhere. Isn't that what we tell our students--just write? We tell them to just write to get the ideas flowing. But to students, many of whom are afraid of writing, this seems daunting. "How am I supposed to know what to write? You haven't given me a prompt!" Teachers, you have all heard this before, and at times (be honest) it's frustrating to hear that day in and day out when you start a writing assignment. You've all heard the groans; I know I have. But what if writing were something that your students really enjoyed? Something they really looked forward to. What would that even look like. Well, for years I've started writing this way: free writing.

Students get out their journals (you, too) and start writing the thoughts that pop into your head. Maybe it might go something like this:

  I don't know what to write, I don't know what to write, I don't know what to write...Mom wants me to call her after school today. Friday is pizza day, the best day of the week--I love that Aquabats song. Yeah, tonight we are having leftover mock lasagna. My rings are dirty. I just cleaned them! Argghhh! All that lotion. That's why I take my rings off at night, but this morning I forgot, and the lotion got smeared over them. Hopefully no one notices. PARCC testing today...schedule messed up, kids anxious to be done...

What did you notice? Hopefully, a string of consciousness. Maybe you noticed fragments. THAT'S OK!!! I just decided to write, and there you have it.

Next I read my entry to my students. They love the silly thoughts. And if they are comfortable, have them share, too. Kids love when adults are silly, even child-like on occasion.

Here's what I've noticed when I do this activity: Students love this! In fact, at times it is difficult for them to want to write anything else. But I adapt slowly. Next I might ask them to free write about a book they are reading. Watch how this happens.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett: My youngest son is reading Chasing Vermeer. He was frustrated about this since it's a sixth grade book, lexile 770L.He over-analyzes things and doesn't just breathe and read. I started reading it. Cool entries, exciting codes, still not finished. My son had a seizure and when he came out of it we talked about Chasing Vermeer and I told him I solved the code. He remembered the next day! Normally he doesn't remember anything after his seizures, but this time he did...

OK, what happened here? What did you notice? Was it grammatically correct always? Did I stray from the topic? Who cares! I just used free writing and narrowed the topic as it pertains to me. It helps to do this when you are trying to understand a plot or sequence of events, etc...I just use this as a launching point for more structured ideas.

It doesn't matter what age. What about preschool? Remember pictures? Have students draw pictures and talk about them when they are done. Telling about what we are putting on paper is the precursor to writing. I remember my oldest son sitting at the table scribbling and putting dots all over his paper. When he was finished he would tell me what it said. I loved it. He was using the adult models in his life to demonstrate his understanding about writing. What about beginning writers? Inventive spelling is so important. Ideas about this have changed over the years, but we absolutely need to allow kids to feel comfortable with writing. I would like to spend time on talking about building confidence in writers in another blog post.

So I will sign off by saying, Start "write" here with your students. It's never too late in the year to start over. Every time we are putting our words on paper, we are starting again and again. Now go write!

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