"We simply carry on as writers knowing that if we do, what we need to teach about writing will become clear along the way, if we develop the eyes to see it." Katie Wood Ray, What You Know by Heart
Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. The idea is to post writing for the entire month of March. Writing for 31 days seemed like a bit of a crazy commitment to me, but I decided I was going to join. It was that or begin to exercise. Besides, I needed to build my writing habit again. I'd gotten away from the habit of spending time writing, collecting ideas, or just playing with words. So on March 1st I began posting to my daily (I use that term loosely) blog, Merely Day by Day. The challenge seemed to fit better with the premise of that blog which was to capture little snippets of life.
During the challenge, I've been reminded of the significance of time, audience, and process as I've tried to post each day. It's made me think a lot about the writing community in our classroom. Honestly, it has given me an admiration for how hard my students work each day and created a bit of jealously of the ease in which they settle into writing each day. Most of all, it's reminded me of the importance of my role in providing opportunities to build the habit of writing.
To Develop a Habit of Writing Young Writers Need:
- Time to Write: In our classroom students have time to write about self-selected topics everyday. Our workshop typically allows about forty minutes for writing. Students need time to develop a process as writers - time to practice all kinds of writing, time to think, time to learn, time to talk together as writers, time to grow ideas. For me, and I think I can safely say for my young writers, this time is nonnegotiable.
- A Place to Write: I typically sit on my couch with my laptop to write, but students also need a place to write. I try to create spaces for writers to move in the classroom. I have a small table in which students love to gather to write. This year the places have become little collaborative writing groups. I've noticed students move into particular groups of friends who support them as writers. They need their tools close enough that finding them doesn't interrupt their work.
- Community Conversations: This is a big one for me. I think writers need to be able to talk together as they work. We spend time figuring out what our room should sound like so everyone can work within it. We also spend time learning about the conversations writers have as they work. At the end of each writer's workshop we take time to share, learn from, and celebrate a few pieces of writing.
- A Writer's Notebook: My first graders have a writer's notebook in which they learn to keep ideas. Sometimes after reading a book or having a conversation I'll note students have a lot of connections to it. When this happens I'll say, "If this book has given you an idea for your writing get your writer's notebook so you can ave the idea." Our notebooks also give us a place to play with our writing. In our notebooks students draw, write, list, web, use post-its, and find ways to think about their stories.
- Mentor Text: As I've been writing everyday, I've been reminded how important reading is for placing words in my head and my heart. I realize how helpful reading the slices of others has been in helping me think about topics, structures, and craft. As I read I realize sentences catch my attention, words jump off the page, and crafting techniques begin to tuck themselves into my mind. As I've been writing more, I've realized I need to read more. I've been pushing to find the time for both. My young writers need this same opportunity to read and notice the way authors craft their stories.
As I walk into my classroom each day during this challenge I have a renewed appreciation of the work these young writers do everyday. The more I write the more I find my myself talking to my students writer to writer once again.