Visiting author, Rita Williams-Garcia, came to our school today and gave a very personable talk about her journey to become a writer. She shared pictures of her journals that she filled starting in fourth grade and her diaries. In middle school she started writing short stories to be published and to do so, she wrote at least 500 words every night in her writer’s notebook. (Yes, she actually counted the words! Computers were still on the horizon.) She made writing a habit and would frequently write on the train or wherever she happened to be. Ms. Williams-Garcia immersed herself in language and found the joy in writing.
As she was talking, I surveyed my students sitting before me and wondered if I have done them wrong. Have any of them found the joy in writing? Do they see the world and have sparks of imagination that leads to a story? Has their language been enriched enough to allow them to express themselves creatively? I fear not.
Our curriculum focuses on three types of writing: narrative, argumentative, and opinion. I faithfully use “best practices” in my instruction. Mini-lessons incorporate strategies to raise the quality of writing. There are checklists, rubrics, progression learning charts, and many other writing tools that are all good. But, when do we put it all away and just let the students write for the enjoyment of it? Isn’t that what will keep them motivated to learn about the craft of writing? Writing instruction can become too clinical, too dry, too laborious and actually snuff out that flame that we are trying to light. Where is the excitement?!
Perhaps this is what the Classroom Slice of Life is all about. Creating that habit of writing. Developing a sense of looking at the world with wide-open eyes. Playing with language and how you are going to tell your story. I am experiencing those things now as a first time slicer; maybe next year it will be time for my students to join me.