I write so much about reading. Mostly because I love reading, I love the adventures, I love the journey. The Mirrors, Windows and Doors that reading brings us. Sometimes I forget to talk about the writing.
Today so many said “I don’t really like writing” or “Can’t we just read more?” or their favourite way to get out of work “Mr.Gilson will you just read to us?”…that usually does it. Today though I stuck to my guns.
After two very excellent twitter chats last night talking to who I tell my students are my “twitter friends” I really started to question my writing instruction. Why I am doing things the way I am and what I could do better. So I am going to work through this as a bit of a list.
- Choice– I thought I was giving students plenty of choice in their writing I was supplying a framework to operate within and they got to choose things like the topic or details of their writing. An example being a “How to” guide for someone who has never heard of a a task you are asking them to do. We used the picture book “Your Alien” as a fun mentor text and then I turned them loose. Then I moved on to some narrative story writing and had the best little theme writing unit. We were going to be talking imagination and I have a narrative piece all planned out and a few opinion paragraphs. Got out a couple of my all time favourites “Beekle” and “The Snurch” which both look at imaginary characters in different lights. I thought “oh man these kids are going to be so inspired to write an adventure with an imaginary friend story” long story less long…they didn’t some did but others just gave me side eye that only JH kids can. I forgot about choice, I was too structured. Today we fixed it “Tell me a story that teaches a lesson” and we wrote.
- Time– “Mr.Gilson how much time do we have” and “How long does it need to be” were asked probably more than anything today. I kept telling them writing is a process guys if it isn’t done for a a few weeks it isn’t done. We are going to write and revise and write some more. Just get your thoughts down and we will worry about the rest later. I find the panic about how long they have and how fast they have to work is just so overwhelming it seems. I need to be better at pacing the mini lessons, I have a 65 minute block and still struggle to find the balance but today after some great advice I taught quickly about themes common in children’s stories and let them write. I was able to float around more checking work and giving feedback in the moment. It was better. Next time will be better still.
- Conversation– Today we talked about their writing a lot more. Giving freedom to explore their thoughts and funny ideas was freeing it seemed. Some are still nervous about the process, I figure years of worksheet writing can be blamed for this creative struggle but we are working on it. The best part of the day (even though there was a lot of “hey get to work”) was the laughter as they shared their ideas, the funny names for the characters, the conversations about writing.
I have work to do to become a better writing teacher. I have been very successful in the standardized writing world that government exams required my past students to write. However without those constraints I need to let myself be free to teach writing in a different way, a more complete way. I love generating a love for reading, a desire in my students to find a good book and just read. Now it is time to help them find the writer they are. I told a small group of my students today I had a dream to write books when I was younger but fear of failure got in the way. Today I dust off that dream. I can do hard things and I can be an example of both a writer and reader to my students because after all…
We write too.