As the school year winds down, I have been encouraging teachers to have their elementary students do some reflective work around their writing lives. I’ve suggested an optional assignment of writing a letter to their next-year teachers about themselves as writers. As an adult writer, it has helped me immensely to recognize, celebrate, and address my writing tendencies. These reflective pieces would not only support the practice of student goal-setting, but the letters would also be important in the fall as teachers are getting to know their new students as writers. Furthermore, these letters would help to deepen the vertical understandings of our curriculum for all of us, something I am always looking for ways to improve.
As a chart fanatic, I envision presenting students with some ideas on the easel. Here are some questions, concepts, and ideas that would propel this sort of work:
What is your favorite genre to write?
- Challenge students to think back to the various units of the year. Remind them of the narrative writing they did—I’m sure some of them will look at you blankly!
- Why do they like that type of writing?
What components of writing do you find challenging?
- Some of your students may understand if you talk to them in terms of structure, development, and conventions, especially if you have been using the Teachers College Checklists throughout the year.
- Some of your students might relate to the concept of traits. Do they tend to stray from the main idea of their writing? Is organization hard? Do they understand the concept of complete sentences? How do they feel about conventions?
How do you feel about the physical aspects of writing?
- Do they prefer pencils to pens?
- Do they erase a lot?
- Does their hand get tired?
- Do they get squirmy when they write?
- What are their paper preferences?
What sorts of behaviors happen when you write?
- Do they tend to get a lot done?
- Do they have habits like going to the bathroom, sharpening pencils, filling up water bottles?
- When they are not writing, what do they look like and what is happening inside their heads?
What sort of environments help you do your best writing?
- Do they like it quiet?
- How do they use writing partners?
- What is their favorite writing space and why?
Certainly, not all of these questions have to be answered;they are just ideas to get students thinking about what could be included.
So far, the responses from teachers have been extremely positive, and I know many students are reflecting on their writing lives this spring. I can’t wait to read their thoughts.