Today is the National Day on Writing, so I thought I’d share some words I put together while writing with my students this week.
I write because, most of the time, it’s easier for me than speaking. I can carefully consider each word and craft exactly what I want to say without having to repeat myself and without fear of being misunderstood. Writing frees my brain of the thoughts that consume so much space and energy. When I put it on paper, I can separate myself from the problem and release the pain.
When I was 19, I was having a difficult time dealing with the 10 year anniversary of my father’s death. I had so many unanswered questions, and I was angry with him for abandoning us. I wrote a letter–I assume it said everything I was thinking, but I don’t really remember. After I finished it, I sealed it in an envelope, drove to a small lake on the north side of town, and set the letter on fire, watching the feathery ashes drop into the murky water. That action released me. The anger and rage dissipated from my soul like the smoke from the scorched paper. Burning the letter didn’t erase all of my memories and questions, but there was something symbolic about it that put me at ease and allowed me to move beyond despair. I felt lighter and liberated.
When we began the new 9 weeks, my students and I had a little “reset” discussion. We started by talking about things that we can reset, like a video game when we’re about to be eaten by a dragon or a phone when it freezes up. A reset is a fresh start when things aren’t going the way we’d like.
The conversation continued to things we can reset in class, like our reading goals and our blogs. We also thought about how to reset our writer’s notebooks. Students really like sharing their beliefs about quotes and responding to various articles of the week (while they might not readily admit it). However, many students said they struggled with the required outside-of-class entries–entries that are open-ended and don’t have a set topic. They thought it would be easier if they had a prompt to write from, so I offered to dig up some resources.
The first link I found is a list of 100 open-ended questions about love, life, and loss. There are opportunities for narrative (Continue the following: “Today started out like any other day, but then…”), expository (What are your fears?), and persuasion (What do you think are the three main problems in the world right now? Do you see the solution to them? If it was up to you, how would you change the world?).
Brainy Quote is another excellent resource, so I shared a link to quotes about time. The sidebar provides other topics, and students can also use the search bar to look for quotes that interest them.
Sometimes ideas spring from visual stimulation, so I found some really great image sites: The Literacy Shed and National Geographic. Illustrations and visuals on the Literacy Shed site are accompanied by writing prompts that students can choose to consider. The photographs on the National Geographic site offer other perspectives of the world that students aren’t often exposed to. I plan to incorporate more images in my classes!
Hopefully these links will spark some creativity in my students and encourage them to seek out their own sources of inspiration!
Today’s prompt is “Tell about a writing challenge you dealt with and how it can help you as a writing teacher.”
My biggest challenge with writing is simply the act itself. Starting. Continuing. Finishing. I know many of my students feel the same way.
Where do I start?
Start at the beginning.
What do I say?
Say whatever you feel.
How do I end?
End when you have nothing left to say.
The answers appear simple, but if you’re someone who has a hard time expressing yourself, like many students are, sitting down with pen and paper (or at a keyboard) can be paralyzing.
This helps me in teaching writing because I can totally relate to that feeling. One strategy is just to write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over again until an idea springs to your mind. The thought is that the physical act of writing will trigger some switch, and that repetitive sentence will morph into the words you want to share.
Accountability is another thing that can get you writing. When you know others will read what you have to say, you feel a sense of responsibility to get the words right so they will respect your opinion. If you form a writing community with others, your motivation to share your thoughts may be inspired by the fear of owing everyone a Starbucks (#inklings).
One thing I’ve noticed: the more I read, the more easily writing comes to me.
And that’s all I have to say, so I’ll end here.