First Writing Moves of the School Year

In Brene Brown’s book, Gifts of Imperfection, she claims “80% of the people she interviewed had experienced shame in school.”

Let us this summer commit to our classrooms being a place where writing doesn’t bring deep shame to our students. 

The Confidence to Write— Liz Prather’s new book is a place to start as the school year is beginning to creep closer in the foreground. (Go now and buy it… please.) 

Where do we get the confidence to write? 

Where do we get the discouragement not to write? 

As we begin another year of writing for ourselves or as teacher writers let us ponder these next small lessons in our own lives and the lives of our students: 

Here are 2 exercises to start the year off creating and rewriting writer identities and I will leave you with 3 more the first of August to help you start your year right. Please take some time to pick up Liz’s new book, you will be inspired to dig deeper into your students’ writing identity. 

Start Off The Day Write: 

This quick exercise gets to the heart of the claims our students believe about them as writers. Remind students these answers will not be shared unless they want them to. To be honest with themselves in their answers and not to overthink them. Offer these thinking stems and give them about 1 minute to respond to each. 

  1. As a writer I am… 
  2. As a student writer or [teacher writer] I am… 
  3. When I write I feel…
  4. As a writer I wish… 
  5. As a writer I need… 

Have your students underline the sentence that jumps out to them most. Explain to your students that these are claims we are making about ourselves as writers. Stating these claims helps us conceptualize the reality that we have a writing identity. So give your kiddos 5 minutes. Tell them to elaborate about one of these statements– tell their story about how or why they got to that statement. It may help your students to do this activity for them with your thinking.

Champions and Critics 

Liz has another activity that was profound for me and I hope it will be for you and your students as well. This is called Champions and Critics. It starts with an image of a bus: 

This bus represents our writing journey. And there are people on this bus we explain to our students. 

Ask your students to allow people to get off the bus (in their minds) . The first people off their bus are  those who are our critics. The people in our writing journey that have discouraged us. Listen to them, without defending yourself, hear what they have to say. Have them write for 3 minutes about who the critics are on their bus.

Next, the champions. Who are the people on your bus that have championed your writing? Listen to them, hear what they have to say. Often what they say contradicts what the critics say. That’s fine. Give students 3 minutes to write about the champions on their bus.

Remind students that we are all on a writing journey. We all have experiences of people on our bus being negative and positive. Give students time to share with each other and dialogue about similarities and differences between their stories if they are comfortable. 

Next month at the start of the year I will have 2 more beginning of the year strategies to share with you, so tune back in the beginning of August. Hope this gets your writing teacher wheels excited and turning– and remember these writing strategies also can give our teacher bucket life too. Give these strategies a chance this summer and let me know how they go. 

Cheers to long relaxing days to ponder what’s to come.

Please reach out with questions, reflections, and connections in the comments below or on Twitter @Mrsablund. Check out my other articles writing out of the ELA classroom.

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