Writing in the Classroom
A new teacher friend of mine recently asked for some practical steps to increase writing in her classroom. She said she was experienced with teaching essays of the “academic” sort, but her students weren’t naturally engaged, and the curriculum didn’t provide much room for creative writing. She also wasn’t confident about how to begin.
It’s my belief that students need to do far more writing than their teachers can ever read, and we’re cheating them out of some real fun and growth if we don’t provide them with chances to explore where their minds can take them on paper.
So I adopted an easy way to encourage low-stakes, frequent writing. (I’m pretty sure I originally picked up the idea from reading Nancie Atwell.) It’s self-evident from the rubric posted here, but basically, over several weeks, students do 10 writing pieces for 10 minutes each (I often let them go longer, or add a minute per session until we’re up to 15 minutes), list them on the sheet, and collect them in a folder as we go. Then, after 10 pieces, I ask students to pick their favorite 2 pieces to star and staple on top of the set of ten, complete the self-assessment, and turn in the folders.
I’m also providing a list of topics that can get students going, especially if they’ve been trained to write from prompts and haven’t developed the skill of coming up with ideas. (Disturbing thought.)
Obviously, teachers should feel free to adapt. Some students might want to expand their experiments into longer stories. Just remember to write with your students so they can see you modeling how valuable this writing time is.
In case you’re wondering if this can have any legitimate connection to real school, check out this standard from the Common Core:
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
That’s the closest standard I can find to recognize writing as an art form.