[Teaching Tips] What I Used to Know

I re-learned something I think I knew once. Journal-writing is good. Systematic sustained writing on a daily basis improves writing.  It just does.  I’m not going to look up the proof for this, * I’m just going to state it as a fact–in order to improve your writing you must write.

Over the last five years or so, I’ve let go of journal writing in my classroom. I became tired of fighting my kiddo’s aversion to writing, tired of coming up with creative and thoughtful writing prompts, and, I’m sad to say, tired of reading the garbage that came out of  the writing I was assigning. It’s a shame, to be sure, but I’m willing to admit it because I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one. My unnecessary and trite writing prompts were instigating unnecessary and trite writing responses.  They didn’t want to write it, and I didn’t want to read it. We were all miserable, and I let it slowly fall away.
This summer, at the SDAWP Summer Institute (that I have and will mention multitudinous times), we were required to write for 15 minutes at the beginning of each day. At 8:00 A.M. exactly ( I know this because I was spoken to about being late on a couple of occasions), the music was switched on and writing time commenced.  If someone talked, they were shushed, if someone was late to arrive they were expected to jump in and begin writing post-haste. EVERYONE wrote–leaders and students alike. And you know what?  My writing improved.  Yup.  It totally did.
Fast forward to the Super School Year of 2011. I’ve established the same procedure for my homeroom class.  They come in at 8:45 A.M., the music is on, and we all begin to write. We write for 10 or so minutes (I have a sneaky plan to increase this) and then one or two lovies share their writing. If the phone rings, or someone comes in, I ask them to wait–it’s writing time. No matter how much I need to get done before class begins, I take out my journal and we all write. 
We’ve now been writing for four weeks. Here is my anecdotal evidence that it’s working:
  • Last Tuesday, after a long weekend, I couldn’t get them to stop writing at the end of the 10 minutes. They felt like they had too much to “say” to stop writing after only 10  minutes.
  • Their writing has gone from short narrative paragraphs to 1-2 page explorations of writing (for the most part).
  • The lovies are using our new vocabulary words and writing tricks in their journals (more on those topics to come).
  • A. came in on Monday morning and said “I had such a  great weekend, but I’m going to write about it today so I won’t spoil it for you.”
  • Last week one of the lovies that is writing an on-going story (about a zombie apocalypse, mind you), didn’t have time to share before they had to go get their breakfast.  When they got back with their breakfast pastries and juice he said “do you want me to share now?”  There was a chorus of yeahs and of-courses and they all sat quietly, eating their muffins, listening to him read. 
  •  My students came in early for class today and started writing FIVE MINUTES BEFORE the bell.  
I’m tickled pink with their willingness, their growth, and their potential.  Who knew it was just a matter of writing every day? Oh… wait… I did.  But then I forgot.  Thank goodness for remembering!

*NOTE–Those of you that know me know that I DID try to look it up. I couldn’t find what I wanted, so I am trying to let it be.  If you find anything, help a sister out and let me know!

One thought on “[Teaching Tips] What I Used to Know

  1. Don't you love it when you remember something so good–and it works so well! I love that you are documenting the progress–and sharing it with us all! Keep on writing.

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