Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.
I have been thinking lately about what it is that makes someone enjoy writing. I’ve always loved it; I love getting the idea, capturing my thoughts, then revisiting them and cleaning them up so I am sure they make sense. I enjoy removing myself from my own words as I edit, stepping back and pretending to be a brand new reader. And then I love it when I think: There. Done.
But how does loving to write start? What is it that will make a student want to write–and write well?
Recently, I asked a high school AP English student I know that question. He is a strong, tough kid–he stars on his school’s state-ranked football team and is known for his aggressive play on the field. He’s also a voracious reader and an impassioned writer; he churns out his essays with apparent ease and a natural instinct for how to reach his reader. And he likes it. He hopes to go to college and major in English, heading on a career path in which he will, in some capacity, do some writing.
“How did you get to be such a fantastic writer?” I asked him. “You’re pretty young to have writing skills that are this refined; and, quite frankly, it surprises me that you enjoy it so much.”
He blushed. All 250 pounds of him seemed to be overcome with a sweet, overwhelming shyness.
“What is it?” I asked, touched by the gentle little upturn of his lips as he smiled at me.
“I found out I liked writing when I would write letters to my girlfriend,” he confessed. “I know that sounds dumb, but we write letters to each other every day in study hall. I wanted to sound smart so she’d really like me, so I worked really hard on each word I used.” He paused. “A lot of people don’t expect me to like to write so much. They expect me to just be some dumb jock. But I like proving people wrong. When I first started dating my girlfriend, she told me that she was surprised how intelligent and eloquent my writing was. I liked that.”
That is sweet, I thought. And I realized I had a similar story. When I was a high school student, I had a mad crush on the cute guy who sat a few rows away from me in science class. I got his attention by writing a few short notes–first about homework assignments, then about mutual friends. Each time, to my delight, he responded. As the days passed, our correspondence got longer and more involved. Eventually, he was my first real boyfriend. We wrote letters to each other for the entire year we dated; I have those letters still. I also have the letters that led up to our eventual breakup. The letters chronicle the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship–each chapter played out with white notebook paper and the written word.
So there it is, I thought: young writers are born and built based on the connection between their words and people they care about. In these two examples, we see that writing can be the way we fall in and out of love. Beyond that, it can be how we develop and build our friendships, how we get out of relationships, how we fight, and how we care for one another. It’s a powerful antecedent to grow a lifelong writer when a young writer realizes how powerful his words can be on a friend or a crush. Or a teacher.
All this proves what a good writing teacher knows: the writing we assign has to be authentic and it has to connect to real life. The student who is writing the words needs to know that the reader will pay attention and will care what it says. That’s important to remember when we read through the words our students write for us.
This week we look at using Twitter in classrooms. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
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Here are two features from the archives on Twitter and other online resources.
Franki Sibberson has advice for Getting Started with Twitter:
Heather Rader wonders what impact Twitter and texting have on spelling in The Affect of Tech on Splrs:
Katharine Hale explains how she creates Breathing Anchor Charts on her TEaCHivity blog, linking video explanations to the charts:
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Katharine Hale looks at The Power of a Hashtag in helping students harness Twitter in a reading community:
Julie Johnson has advice on classroom uses of tech resources in Choosing the Right Tool for Your Message:
Katherine Sokolowski and her students find Twitter is an essential element in their fifth-grade reading workshop:
According to the calendar, fall ends next week. The reality on the ground for most of us is that it ended a long time ago. In the poem “Selfies of Autumn,” Shirl McPhillips writes about our heightened awareness as a season passes:
In an encore video, Heather Rader confers with a second-grade boy writing about video games while his teacher Linda Karamatic listens in:
That’s all for this week!