The desire to write grows with writing.
Last year during the last week of school, I met with a group of fourth graders, and we talked about why they felt like writers in their classrooms. My question to them was simple, and I put it on a piece of paper in front of them: “What makes you feel like writers in this classroom?”
Because my job spans grades, I’ve known many of these students for several years, so I have watched them grow, evolve, and develop as writers. Trust me when I say that some of them would never have said they were writers until this year. Some of them didn’t like writing until this year. Some of them did what they could to avoid writing until this year. Therefore, I really wanted to know what made the difference in their classroom.
For a little while, they scratched their heads, trying to figure out answers to my question. And then one student said, “It’s because Ms. C. writes with us.” The floodgates opened, and I couldn’t document their responses fast enough. They kept saying why her writing mattered, and I kept scrawling on my piece of paper. My original notes were an assortment of different ideas, but later as I read their comments, I could organize them into categories of related concepts.
Some of the statements had to do with the sense of validation they felt:
It shows you’re not giving an assignment for the sake of giving an assignment.
It proves the fact that we’re all students and all teachers.
Other statements had more to do with the inspiration she provided–the bar she set for them:
I want to do it as well as she does.
It makes me want to do it better.
Seeing her think, seeing that she cares about her work, helps me think in my own writing.
She shows us the fun of writing.
And another set of statements reflected the sense of community they felt as a result of sharing their writing lives:
Her writing shares stuff about her we wouldn’t know otherwise.
We teach each other how to learn and be good friends.
I put Ms. C. herself on the spot and asked her why her writing life mattered to her as a teacher. Some of her reflections made right in that moment are so important:
I appreciate the struggle of time. When I draft and I can’t get the word, I realize how much I want that word, and I develop and then teach different strategies to learners.
It makes me mindful of what learners need to write.
I can be more supportive because I know what it’s like to have a defined writing block.
Whenever I have a chance in my coaching work, I weave in the importance of our own writing. Yet I have never had such a conversation with children about how much their teacher’s writing mattered to them. Straight from the mouths of students — our writing models, motivates, and inspires.
This week we look at the power of teachers writing. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Melanie Meehan is the Elementary Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, Connecticut. She has many fictional works in progress and blogs with Melanie Swider at Two Reflective Teachers and is a contributor to Two Writing Teachers.
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Ruth Ayres answers the question of why writing matters for busy teachers who struggle to find time for their own writing notebooks:
Sunshine, multiple venues, and a writing marathon give a group of teachers led by Heather Rader many insights into the needs of writers of all ages:
We continue our April poetry series. Shirl McPhillips captures beautifully the “hard knuckle” of the end of winter and the slow turn to spring in this poem and reflection:
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Ruth Ayres shares how she was always someone who wrote — until she became a teacher. Getting back into writing was all about motivating her reluctant students:
Mary Lee Hahn tackles the riskiest writing of all — in front of students and improvised with no advance drafting or planning:
Melanie Meehan explains why your own writing, however imperfect it is, might enhance your teaching tremendously:
In this week’s video, Gigi McAllister models writing in front of her fourth-grade class. She takes advice from students as she develops the characters in her story:
In an encore video, Stella Villalba models nonfiction writing for her first- and second-grade English language learners, and in the process integrates vocabulary instruction into her lesson:
That’s all for this week!