An Exploration Into Found Poetry

My students don’t love poetry.  I know this because when I told them we would be creating poetry, the cacophony of noise that erupted was not one of joy or happiness.  It sounded more like some of them were sick.

But this is exactly why I love teaching poetry in 7th grade.  It is a chance to rewrite and reclaim the whole notion of what poetry is.  To help students see that they too can create things with meaning without feeling like poetry is just one more thing they are not smart enough to produce.

So instead of “regular” poetry, we create found poetry.  Introduced to us by the amazing David Daniel, an actor who does a weeklong poetry workshop with us every year (the kids have no idea how much they will love it).  We create poetry out of words that were not made by us.  We make poetry out of our surroundings, out of noises, out of words found in books and on books.  And I see the change, I see the spirit with which kids embrace this task.  How they all of a sudden feel like poets.

What are the different components?

Video:

Every day we share a video of a spoken word poet, some of our favorites are – if you have others, please share them in the comments:

To This Day Project by Shane Koyzcan

Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty

What Kind of Asian Are You? by Alex Dang

Somewhere in America by Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen

An Ode to Whataburger by Amir Safi

Why I Hate School But Love Education by Suli Breaks

Different Concepts:

There are many ways to create found poetry, here are a few of our favorites

Black-Out Poetry

Where students black the words out on pages of books, leaving only the words of their poem behind.  We use discarded library books for this.

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Found Words Poetry

Students search the classroom for words to fill out in a table on a piece of white paper.  Once they have filled all of their boxes, they cut them out, put them in the order they want and then glue them down.

Book Spine Poetry

Students create poetry using the titles of books, by stacking them on top of each other and then snapping a picture of their creations.  We shared them on social media using the hashtag #OMSreads

 

Collage Poetry (or Ransom Note poetry as the students coined it)

Using images and words from magazines, students cut out what they need and create a poem collage.

 

Conversation poetry

Send students to a busy area listening for sounds and snippets of conversations.  Write them down and then use them as lines in your poem.

Model poetry

Who says poetry needs words?  Using maker space materials create a visual poem that tells its stories using words or not.

There are many other ways of creating found poetry, if you have other ideas, share them in the comments.

While this may seem like just fun and games, it has been quite amazing to see the transformation.  We have also spoken about poetic terms that the students have been exposed to before, but may have forgotten.  This great word wall came from our 8th grade English teachers and help kids get reacquainted with terms they may either need or would like to be inspired by.

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So while my students didn’t love poetry in the beginning, and some might not still, many have realized that can be poets.  That poetry should make them feel something.  that poetry can be all around us.  I have loved this exploration so much.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

A Few Ideas to Teach Inference

My students have been discussing theme and how to analyze for it seemingly all year.  I have seen their growth, I have seen their understanding as they feel like they are mastering tough concepts.  I tell them that analyzing text is really just practice for being better human beings, for being able to read verbal and nonverbal cues in any given social situation and being able to navigate it successfully.  I am not sure they fully believe me, not yet anyway, but in order to help them understand that these skills are really human skills and not just something an English teacher wants them to do, our focus is shifting back to inference.  That skill that we have been teaching for years, that skill our students have been exploring for years.  I needed new ideas and here is what I came up with.

Using wordless picture books

I need my students to fully believe that you can read situations and text in many different ways and that how you understand something sometimes depends on the very lens you come with.  Wordless picture books put us all on an equal playing field, students are not tying their understanding into direct language decoding, but instead reading the pictures and filling in the gaps.  I love to see how different their ideas can be based on their background.

Using America’s Funniest Videos

Students, at times, forget how much inferring they already do throughout a day.  So I played a few clips from America’s Funniest Videos and stopped them before the “fail” happened.  Students used background knowledge, as well as reading the evidence in the video to try to guess what would happen.  We only watched about two minutes but it was hilarious and worth it.

Using “Whodunits”

I love a good “whodunit” story and gave groups of students the same story today to solve.  Could they figure out who the murderer and more importantly, back it up with the correct evidence?  I loved the way students dissected the text, tried on possible solutions, and then attempted to solve the mystery.

Using half a story, at first.

I love a great story with a twist and was delighted to be handed a great short story about a vampire today from one of my amazing co-teachers.  I plan on giving students the beginning half of the story and have them do a characterization of the main character together.  Then they will get the second half of the story which reveals that the main character is a vampire, clues were strewn throughout the first half, and we will now go back to find them.  This is a great lesson for kids to truly understand; sometimes we don’t know what we have missed until we have gone all the way through the text and then start over.

Asking them what happened.

Another great way to use stories with a twist is to ask them what actually happened, especially when the story is rather ambiguous.  I like when students have to wrestle with a text for awhile and can land on opposite sides and still both be right.  A story I have enjoyed using for this is the story My Dog by Kevin ONeall.

Using music videos without the sound.

Something we will be trying tomorrow is looking at music videos, I will be using ones from the 80’s, but without the sound playing.  I will play a minute or so of the video and see if they can figure out what type of song it is and what the lyrics might be about.     We shall see if they can come even close.  A fun one to use will be Meatloaf’s I Would Do Anything for Love or Bjork Human Behavior.

Using short movies.

I love the idea of using various media with students and so it makes sense to use a short film to ask them what happened.  This movie, Francis, is 7 minutes long and a little bit scary.  I cannot wait to see what the theories of my students will be when I ask them; what happened to Francis?

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

When They Still Just Hate to Write…

Our son Oskar hates writing, truly hates everything about it. From the holding of the pencil, to the forming of the letter, to the message itself; there is no love lost here.   Last week he was asked by his school to write his name on all twenty  Valentine’s day cards he will be handing out to his friend.  For a week this has been the ongoing conversation…

“Mom, this is like 100 cards, did you really count them?”
“Mom, I only have five friends, so I really only need to write five…”
“Mom, my friends know that I have a “K” in my name so I don’t need to write these letters…”
“Mom, I want to be a job that has no writing in it…”

Oskar is four years old.  I am truly not worried, not yet, after all, he is at the beginning of his writing journey.  Holding a pencil is hard work.  Forming letters that others can read is hard work.  Sticking with something more than five minutes is hard work.  Yet…

I see his words echoed by some of my students, my twelve and thirteen-year-olds.  Not just the boys, the girls too.  We hate writing, writing is hard, please don’t make us write. And they don’t, they fight me every step of the way.  They write something once and then never return to it.  They do not care that it doesn’t make sense, they do not care that words are misspelled, they do not care that their writing is sometimes terrifyingly simple.  There is no love for the fine art of writing because as they tell me, they will never be writers when they grow up.   So I wonder, what can we do to protect the love of writing and are we doing enough?  Are we offering students a chance to feel like writers rather than see it as something to just get through?

And I get it; how many adults identify as writers?  How many adults feel like they know how to write well?  How many teachers see themselves as writers who would quickly identify as readers?  Why is it that this incredible method of communication seems to have had all of the joy sucked right out of it?  So I wonder, what can we do to protect the love of writing and are we doing enough?  Are we offering students a chance to feel like writers rather than see it as something to just get through?

I know we preach about free choice in writing as if this simple change will fix anything, yet even when given free choice I have students who prefer not to.  Who would like the choice to be that they do not have to write.  So what else can we do beyond giving them time?  Giving them freedom?

We can speak to authors.

Through Skype we have had wonderful conversations with authors who have told us all about their writing process.  Not only has this given the students a deeper connection with the very books they read, but it has also given them a chance to realize that not every writer felt like a writer as a child.  That not every writer gets great ideas with no work behind them.  That writing is hard work and something that even those who have gotten a book published say they get frustrated by it.  This opportunity to speak to those who make it seem so easy has cemented lessons that I have tried to teach for years; writing is hard work, writing does not always come easy, and it is okay to doubt yourself as long as you don’t give up.

We can find out why.

I used to assume that I knew why my students didn’t like to write, after all, it seemed to almost always be the same reasons.  I stopped assuming several years ago when a child told me they hated to write because they did not want a peer to edit it.  They had not written a single word yet.  So now I ask, and we should all ask; what about it do you not like?  When did you start not liking it?  What has helped?  What has hurt?  What small steps can we do to make it better if even just a little bit?  Sometimes they don’t know, other times they do, but we don’t assume to know the answer, so we always ask.

We can sit in silence.

Too often we assume writing must commence the moment an assignment is given and yet those of us who do write regularly know how much writing happens before we actually write any sentences.  I need silence to write.  I need inspiration.  I need to find something that is worth writing about.  This is where free choice is so powerful in our writing curriculum, but so is wait-time, quiet, and a way to manipulate the learning environment to work for the individual.  My students know that when they write they are expected to make the room work for them, not the other way around, so they do.  And they sometimes stare into space for a really long time, but almost always, they finally start to write. And those that don’t?  Well, they are a conversation waiting to happen.

We can provide self-chosen support.  

I used to partner students up by need, by whatever skill they needed to work on.  Now I ask my students to please find a partner or two to work with as they process through their writing, rather than artificially pair them up.  Why?  Because sharing your writing is a vulnerable process.  Sharing your writing and asking someone for feedback can make or break future writing.  Because when I write I self-select those that will see my unfinished work so that I know that they are judging the work and not me.

We can give breaks.

Writing is hard work.  Even as 7th graders, some of my students do not have the stamina to do writing well for more than fifteen minutes.  That is ok, as long as we are aware of it.  For my most ardent non-writers we try to give breaks, sometimes through conferencing, but others time just a movement or water break, so they can shake their hands, clear their minds, and recapture the energy they were feeling before.

We can be honest.

I speak about my own writing process with my students as we explore our writing lives.  I speak of the frustration, of how hard it can be to receive criticism, of how I get in writing slumps, how I seek out inspiration.  I tell them that there are millions of ways to write, that none of them are perfect, but that what matters is that they find their own path.  That they experiment, that they explore, that they do not give up even when they are certain that writing will never be anything they actually will need for anything.  I ask for their concerns and complaints, they share their needs so that I can try to adapt the writing curriculum to fit their needs.

We can make it matter.  

My students rarely write in isolation.  Their bigger projects almost always extend beyond the classroom to make a difference in the lives of others.  To make a mark in the world around them.  Sharing our writing globally has helped some students realize the direct impact that their words can have on others.  Giving them tools such as blogging or simply sharing through Google docs, have made them realize that what they write can matter to others beyond our classroom walls.  That their opinion may shape the opinion of someone else.  That what they write may provoke an emotion in others.  It is not the ultimate solution, there are still children who fight me, who fight themselves, every step of the way.  But it’s a start.  It is a way to try to make writing seen as something important, rather than just something we do in school, never to be applied to the real world.

When Oskar finished his twenty Valentine’s Day cards tonight, they were a bit of a mess.  The “O’s” looked pretty good but everything else was illegible.  He had a smile on his face and so we gathered them up and put them in his backpack.  We have a long way ahead of us yet for him to like writing more.  We picked our battle tonight, knowing that if we had asked him to re-do them all, the damage to his already strained relationship with writing would have been significant.  Perhaps this is my last advice for tonight then, spoken more to myself than others; one battle at a time.  One hurdle at a time.  Small successes matter, even if we haven’t completely changed a child’s mind just yet.  As they say in Denmark; mange bække små gør en stor å.”

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Are We Creating Writing Communities?

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I swore after Passionate Learners 2nd edition came out that I would not write any more books.  That it would be a long time before I wrote anything else besides on this blog because who did I think I was?  Why did I feel that I had anything at all to write and give to others?  Yet, sometimes opportunities arise that we cannot say no to, where we wake up with this little idea in our head and then all of a sudden it turns into a bigger thought and we find ourselves questioning, and pondering, and then writing in our mind at all times until we know that perhaps there is a book in there somewhere.

I said yes to those ideas and now find myself writing two separate books, with the same deadline of May 30th, within the same realm (literacy), and I have been pulling my hair out trying to find just the right words, to make it worth anyone’s time, to make it fresh, and I must admit; it has been an excruciatingly hard process.  Sleepless nights, frustrations, and imposter syndrome has haunted me for the past few months.  It has not been pretty, and yet, within the process of writing, I have uncovered a few realizations of what our students must face when they write, of how frustrated they must feel at times when we tell them to just write, to just create, to just get something down and do this assignment so we can assess them.  These realizations are causing me to question the very process that we use when we teach writing and ponder how we can make it better.  How we can make it work for every child and not just those that already seem to have figured this writing thing out.  Because I don’t think I am doing enough to really teach real writing, so these are my driving questions.

Do we know who our students are as writers?  Do they?  Is there time within our curriculum to really get to know students, and also for them to get know themselves better, so that what they write is meaningful to them.  And not just when they write a personal narrative, but is there a personal lens of the world present in some way in anything they write?  Can we see the individual in the assignment or are they all the same?  My struggle has been to stay true to myself while still adapting to the purpose, to write a book that feels like my book and not just a poor imitation of other people’s work.  Are we allowing our students to infuse their writing with their own personal essence or do they even know who they are as writers to do this?

Do we allow them ownership over the process?  I do not follow a linear path when I write and never have.  Yet, in our classrooms we often expect students to follow the same path and move along at the same pace.  This does not lead to more authentic writing, nor does it lead to most students even identifying as writers.  So why do we keep doing it?  Do we discover, discuss, and reflect on each other’s writing processes?  Do we find beauty within the varied ways that students create while still exposing them to many styles?

Do students understand the purpose of the writing?  One of my largest struggles has been that my purpose for one book kept shifting, that what started as one idea morphed into another and it shows in the disjointed chapters and unclear thoughts.  Do we allow time for students to just think of what they are trying to create, not just the how? Do we plan time to discuss and dissect the why as a community?  Do we give them time to sketch out or discuss or create in such a way that they are not committing themselves to a product just yet, but instead feel like they can explore various options, even when we have curriculum to teach and content to cover?

Do we edit with kindness?  I have faced reviews and edits where only flaws were discussed, all in the spirit of fixing my mistakes, yet it wears you down.  After a while it plants doubt as to your own writing ability and these doubts can soon create writers block.  When we edit with students do we know what we need to protect?  Do we know what is most important to them?  Do we speak genuinely of their strengths or get right to the parts that need fixing?  Are there parts that we leave alone because in the grand scheme of things it may not be important?

Do we set up time for them to be immersed?  The only reason any book is being written is because I have scheduled it in every single night (30 minutes at least).  I find comfort within the routine and also a determination to finish the draft.  Every night I make progress, even when it is painful, yet in our classrooms we are so dictated by our schedule and timelines that we often push students to create, to produce, just so we can move on. How do we give students time to explore and write every day when we are faced with the constraint of 45 minutes and so much to learn?

Do we encourage writing partnerships?  My mother edits my work and my friends discuss ideas with me.  Writing can be a vulnerable process so do we allow students to self-select writing peers within our community?   Do we give them the time and flexibility to use each other as writing partners, and not in a conscripted way, but in a way that works for them?

Do we create room for their emotions?  There have been nights of wringing my hands over the computer trying to find just the right words where only the assurance of my husband that I am not a fool for trying to write has helped me come back to the dreaded process.  Where I have had to take a deep breath and realize that the reason these books weigh so much in my life is because I care deeply about their message.  That within my emotional reaction to the process is evidence of its importance.  Do we create writing communities where students are encouraged to become emotionally attached to what they create or do we simply not have time?  Do we encourage them to use those emotions as a way to fuel their writing and their own self-discovery?

I still have a hard time calling myself a writer, even with 3 books published and more than 1300 blog posts written.  I still feel like a fraud every time I tell someone that I write, almost as if the title has not been earned just yet, and don’t get me started about considering myself an author, I am long way from that one.  So how do our students feel in our writing communities?  Do we embrace and discover the whole process of what it means to write, to be a writer, and use it as a strength when we develop our craft or do we skip over it as we try to get students to write?  Are we truly creating communities of writers or do we just teach writing?  There is a huge difference.  The choice is ours.

If you are wondering why there seems to be a common thread to so many of my posts as of late, it is because I am working on two separate literacy books.  While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher.  Those books will be published in 2017 hopefully, so until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please seethis page.

I Am Not a Writer – On Developing Student Writing Identity

I have taught writing for 8 years.  8 years of outlines, of brainstorms, of on-demand writing.  Of peer editing and feedback cycles.  Of writer’s notebooks to mine for ideas.  Of blank stares and “I have nothing to write.”  And never once did I think deeply about the writing process.

I knew I had to write with my students.  I knew I had to develop my own writing in front of them.  I knew that writers needed different conditions to spark creativity.  And yet, we still followed a pretty linear process, a one path to greatness type of ideal.  We write different pieces but all for the same purpose.

This summer, I was asked to speak out loud while I wrote to be part of a series of videos called Wisconsin Writes.  I was asked to write in front of a camera and a person and just talk as I wrote, providing a running commentary on how my process worked.  It was awkward.  It was stilted.  But it was also enlightening.  That is not the writing process I teach.

Yesterday Jacqueline Woodson spoke about her writing process.  An offhand comment about how she doesn’t outline but just keeps asking “what if.”  Sees where the story takes her and then jumps from piece to piece when she gets bored.  She knows there is a story, she just doesn’t know what it is.  That is not the writing process I teach.

Last night, Donalyn Miller and I spoke about writing and her words sit with me still; there is not one process to writing, there are many.  I know this as a writer myself, so why have I forgotten it so often in the classroom?

Our job as teachers who write is to help students uncover their writing identity.  To show them many different ways of writing and constantly asking them to find what works for them.  To ask questions rather than dictate a path.  To have them reflect on the very creative process that they undergo.  We should not just be assessing their final product but instead support them uncovering their process.  Because their process will be distinctly unique much like ours is.

So as I turn my eyes on developing writer identities, there are a few things I must keep in mind.

All writers are writers.  We say this all the time but if we do not give them opportunities to feel like successful writers then they will never believe us.  So writing must be bigger than one thing.  Writing must be about thinking like a writer, feeling a writer, and not just producing.

All writers need time.  We tend to think that writing is only happening when students are physically writing, but most of us know that writing is also thinking, mulling, abandoning and coming back to our work.  That writing is an unseen process most of the time and the actual act of writing is the product of something so much bigger.  So why do we expect students to write right away?

All writers need choice.  Not just in what they write, but also how they write.  That choice can be whether it is typed or handwritten, where they physically write but also who they write for.  Different audiences require different thought processes.

All writers need ownership.  We expect students to want to share their writing all the time, whether with others through peer editing, feedback or simply celebrating their writing by making it public.  But not all written work needs to be shared.  Some things are just for the authors and that is to be celebrated as well.

All writers need to end it.  Why must every piece be finished?  Why must every piece be edited?  When we tell students that they can start something and when they feel it is done, it is done, it gives them courage to write more.  It gives them ownership over completion rather than asking the teacher whether something is done or not.

All writers write differently.  Much like my writing process is one that only suits me, the writing process of my students is uniquely theirs.  Yet we keep squeezing them into a box of how writers write and then wonder when their writing isn’t powerful.

All writers need self-discovery.  We need to lead conversations where students can put into words what their process is. So using videos of writers speaking about their process gives us a common language and starting point to talk about their writing process.  Our writing instruction needs to encompass all aspects of writing, not just the visible part of it, but the thinking, the journey, the progress.  We need to bring that into the open so that students can understand what it really means to write.

All students need questions.  When someone says they are not a writer, we must ask “Why?”  And if they are not sure then keep asking questions.  Most students say they are bad writers because they cannot spell.  Because they cannot come up with ideas.  Because writing is for other kids.  But writing is bigger than that.  Writing is about finding a way to express the thoughts that jumble our heads.  Not just being a great speller. Or being like others.

I have a long way to go.  I have a long way to teach.  I have some big conversations to have with my students and I cannot wait.  We are all different yet our difference is what makes us unique writers.  What makes our writing powerful.

Some Rules We Need to Bend As Teachers of Writing

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I have been thinking a lot about writing.  Call it that time of year, call it seeing a need, call it teaching middle schoolers who either seem to love writing or really really hate it.  But writing is definitely on my mind.  And it’s about time.

You see, I keep fighting with myself and my own expectation of what a teacher of writing looks like.  The poor English teacher hunched over essays, red pen in hand comes to mind, and yet the teachers of writing that I keep learning from, that I emulate are far from that.  They is so much more than a red pen.  Yet, the old expectations, the old rules, of what I should be continue to haunt the corners of mind, trying to sway me to be something I am not.  I cannot be alone fighting all of these expectations.  I cannot be the only one that feels we need to bend some rules.

Rule number 1:  The teacher must read every piece of writing a student creates.

Kelly Gallagher freed me when I heard him say that students must write more than we can read.  Until then I lugged the journals home every weekend.  I wrote back on every piece of writing.  I read and read all of their writing, eager with my comments.  Now I ask the students what they would like me to read.  I invite them to share their work with the expectation that they must share something and then I read, devour, and assess.  It has changed the amount of writing we do.

Rule number 2:  We must know the purpose of a writing conference beforehand.

I used to think that I had to have every conference pre-planned, that every child that met with me I was ready for.  Now students schedule conferences and I ask them what I can help them with.  They tell me what they need and together we look at their world.  The conversations have deepened and their independence as writers has increased.

Rule number 3:  We must publish all finished work.

As writers, we do this all of the time; write more than we publish, write more than what others see.  And yet, in our classrooms we are taught that writing is a social thing, that all writing must be shared with another person.  That it is not finished until it is shared.  However, writing is a personal thing and sometimes that thing we wrote does not need others’ eyes on it, instead it needs to be tucked away, finished but not for the world to see.

Rule number 4:  We must always write for an audience.

I love having authentic purpose, like we have right now, but I also believe in writing for yourself.  Writing for the teacher.  Writing just to write.  And that means that sometimes you have no idea who you are writing something for but just are writing.  That does not make it without purpose, it simply makes it private.

Rule number 5:  All finished pieces must be, well, finished.

How many things have I published on here that were far from perfect?  How many times has a piece only gotten better because others joined in and shared their thoughts?  We do not always have to see a story through to be done with it.  We do not have to write a whole piece to share.

Rule number 6:  We must edit for perfection.

As teachers, we can do great damage with our editing skills; we can edit out the very thing students are trying to protect.  So I have pulled back on what I edit, I ask students what they would like me to help them edit, and I ultimately put the responsibility for most editing back on them; we are not striving for a perfectly edited piece.  We are striving for a better piece.

Rule number 7:  We must have a peer editor.

The peer editor comes up as one of the most hated things my students do in writing.  Often they do not trust the person that is editing their work, or the process itself is not helpful.  Until we teach students to actually edit their own work, we cannot expect them to be able to edit each others.  Until students get to choose who sees their work, they will not trust us in their writing.  So give students the choice and the time to work with someone else, but do not force them to.  At least not every time.

Rule number 8:  Writing must be linear.

Too often we teach students to start at the beginning and “just” write a rough draft, yet often students cannot think of the beginning.  They then stare at the page for days.  But writing does not have to be linear.  Students can start at the end, they can start in the middle, they can start wherever they want, what matters is that they write.  What matters is that they start.

Rule number 9:  Writing must be instantaneous and constant.  

We forget that writing takes time.  That part of writing is thinking.  That part of writing is searching for inspiration.  My students ask for time to simply think, to look for inspiration.  To write a little bit and then be allowed to stop.  Sometimes silence is the biggest friend a writer can have.

Rule number 10:  The writing process is the same. 

If our goal is to create true writers, and not just teach the act of writing, then we must make room for individualization.  That means that students must have choice in how they write, where they write, and also for how long they write.  While students should be exposed to many different writing techniques, processes, and also have time to experiment with them, we need to be careful when we expect them to all follow the same process.  What we should be aiming for instead are students who discover who they are as writers and develop that path.  Not follow the one we have set out for them.

Rule number 11:  Good writers write like me.

I’ll admit it; I have a wonky writing process.  I often do not write until I have the very first line figured out, but once that happens I can write the whole piece or chapter in one sitting.  I cannot read mentor texts for inspiration because they seep into my writing in all of the worst ways.  I work best under pressure, and I must have absolute silence when I write.  This process is not taught in school, but was one that I discovered myself when I got older.  And it would be a horrible process to teach to others.  Yet, how often do we teach students to write a certain way because that is what good writers do?  Instead, we should be focusing our energy on student self-exploration as writers, to give them opportunities to figure out how they write best.  Ask them, give them ideas, give them time and then have them reflect; did that work for them?  Why or why not?  Let them discover their identities now so they can identify as writers, not as students trying to be writers.

I know there are more hidden rules that haunt my classroom.  I know there are more expectations that drive my instruction in all of the worst way.  I know I have so much work to do in how I teach the act of writing, in how my students become writers, but at least this is a start.  Which rules do you think we need to bend?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.