I used to think one of the biggest battles that I faced in teaching writing was getting kids to get started. I can honestly say now that it’s really not.
The biggest battle I face in getting kids to write is wrestling with the tension between writing that ignites kids passion and the text based writing that sucks the life out of even the most talented young writers.
Often we think that equity work and the pathway to liberation is direct conflict with the voice of oppression. Make no mistake…that is also the work. As an elementary school teacher, sometimes, resistance comes in the form of allowing kids access. Sometimes it comes in the form of allowing kids to find joy in their learning journey. Sometimes it comes in the form of making diverse books available when everyone else is stuck on Seuss.
Resistance can be incremental steps towards larger broader realizations. Elementary classrooms are a wonderful place to watch that growth. Don’t discount those steps elementary school teacher. Remember that your work is foundational to the bigger and broader steps those same learners take in their middle and high school years.
So with that thinking in mind, one of the ways that I’ve shifted my writing instruction recently is to go back to a more holistic approach. I’ve been exploring how to make a better connection between reading and writing. How can writing be an extension of kids experiences, while also allowing them the opportunity to learn how to craft their voice specifically.
Allowing students to write from their own experiences, their own schema–then tying that to content objectives has been a wonderful opportunity for students to experiment and grow.
I’ve been doing some learning in a cohort with Dr. Angela Schroeden and I’ve been so appreciative of her practical approaches to teaching reading. Follow her on Twitter. She’s a gem! I love this ‘heart writing’ activity that she modeled for us! I brought it back to our classroom and have been referring to it daily ever since.
My learners have a journal book where they put poems we are working on and now writing as well. So, I’d suggest at least a folder to keep their writing.
Step 1: Draw a heart on paper and split it into three parts.
Step 2: Model how to label each part. (People, Places, Things)
Step 3: Model how to think about adding topics to each section.
Step 4: Talk a bit about your purpose in writing for the day. Ask students to identify that purpose in the model you’re about to share with them.
Step 5: Model how to write to a topic. Time yourself for four minutes and free write.
Step 6: Ask students to analyze the writing through questioning and prompting.
Step 7: Give students 10 minutes to free write. Remind them that the writing will be unfinished and that’s okay.
Step 8: Have students take turns reading their writing aloud. Model how to respond to their writing by discussing their point of view, voice, and perspective. Focus on praise rather than feedback. Allow students to affirm their peers similarly.
This process has been so successful in my classroom and really simple to implement. It think a lot of times we put so much into book tie-ins and such. I think books are wonderful and I read to my kids every day, but in order for kids to connect authorship to themselves, they need to actually have an opportunity to see real authorship. The closest person to them is YOU the teacher. YOU can be a real author if you write for them! This does not mean that for more complex topics you don’t anchor it to actual text, but for kids to connect writing as a human expression? They need to see it done in real time and respond to it as a way to actually connect.
Kids need to know that their writing is a bridge.
When you model writing regularly? You are the bridge that connects them to the idea that they too can be writers!