I think this is my problem with teaching writing: I get bored of the assignments. I can teach in week long increments and then I’m ready to move on. To follow a written piece to its logical conclusion ideally takes longer than a week.
I’ve assigned this final writing project which is basically a free choice for the last weeks of school. So much of special education writing instruction is skill based. This is how you write this type of paragraph, etc. I wanted my students to experience what it’s like to really WRITE. Revise, conference, rework, for a long period of time.
My 8th grade is loving it, 7th grade not so much. I think they’re not ready maturity wise for such loose boundaries. This is the thing though-I have SILENT writing periods. No fires to put out, nothing. I was getting bored of sitting there watching students at their computers and I had an epiphany. I should be writing too. I grabbed an extra composition notebook out of my closet and so here I am coming up with ideas, queries, and blog posts and being an example to my students. How can I stress the importance of writing if I don’t do it myself?
This might be the best time for me to establish a good writing routine. This summer, I will be in mom mode-parks, popsicles, and road trips so I’m taking this time to make sure I don’t forget about my “writerly” self.
Last Friday I tried some Mindful freewriting exercises with mixed results. I had some pictures of the writing the kids did but WordPress doesn’t seem to want me to use them. Basically what I did was this:
I started off with the kids doing some “Right Now” writing exercises which is something I see on a few Monday blogs around the internet. They wrote sentences on what they were doing right now: thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, etc. You can see examples here, here, and here.
Then I gave them a big packet of journal prompts and story starters and told them just to WRITE. I didn’t care about grammar, spelling, how many prompts they did, how long they were, anything. They just had to write for the rest of the period.
So mixed results. The 8th graders loved it or at least did it and were pretty content. The 7th grade was another story. Half of them were fine and enjoyed it. Half of them sat and pouted and were kind of ridiculous. I mean, I was playing music, lights were off, few expectations, and they just couldn’t handle it. So I have to figure something else out for them, maybe a separation of sorts or two different activities. I would love to hear some ideas out there. How could I “structure” freewriting for these reluctant writers?
Yesterday I read an article with my students about S.E. Hinton in preparation for starting The Outsiders. In the article she mainly talks about her process of writing. (The article is an old hard copy and I have no idea where I got it.) At the end of the article, she says that the way for students to learn paragraph and sentence structure is to read a lot so it becomes more a part of the subconscious. She also talks about how teachers can get students to enjoy writing, mainly by not grading so harshly and having students fix their mistakes because this is what an editor would do.
Now that MCAS is over for this year, I realized that I have a little time to get my students to enjoy writing, maybe by letting them write what they want to write instead of an “assignment”. I’ve also really enjoyed reading Soulemama’s and Earthmama’s “Right Now” posts. I did one yesterday for my own blog and I would love to incorporate that with my students. A more steam of consciousness, creative, fun approach to writing because they hate it and no graphic organizer is going to fix that.
Are there other ideas out there for teaching writing in a more enjoyable, less structured way? I kind of have free rein right now as we head into the end of the year. I was thinking of making Friday a kind of “Mindful Writing” day. What do you guys think?