Re-light the Flame

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.

11 thoughts on “Re-light the Flame

  1. What an eye-opening experience you have had. You have been introduced to the beauty and the joy of writing. It is very hard to use checklists and rubrics to edit and improve something that has no significance. I am so thrilled that this visiting author has lit that spark in you. You and your students will be so much better for it!


  2. I think you’re touching on a wondering that many teachers of writing have. I keep time in my class period for exactly the type of writing you describe, and it’s for the reasons you touch on. We want to turn out writers, not those who write because we tell them to. Bravo to you for being reflective!


  3. You are so lucky to have had an author come to your school and inspire you to think! This year more than ever, this challenge has engaged my reluctant writers!


  4. That basic love of learning is what teachers want to instill in all areas. With testing, it seems we lost that focus some…or sometimes a lot. Teaching and learning don’t have to be so much about achieving the check-boxes of skills as they are about the true opening up of the love of learning.
    It is always good to question ourselves. So nice to hear from an author – kids must have loved this!


  5. I think you pose very important questions. Ones worth revisiting and thinking long about. Who would ever write if it seems like some long, dull assignment done for someone else? Admire your bravery.


  6. Hard questions: “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?” The answers to these questions are the true judge the level of our success as teachers (not the Test).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a timely provocation. To quote Fountas and Pinnell’ No writer writes merely to practice a genre.’ A writer begins with an idea. An idea to important to ignore- then they consider what genre would best suit my needs. May you and your students find joy in writing. When we empower our students to make decisions about their writing, when we give them choice and ownership, we also empower ourselves. From your examination of your writing program I wish you well in identifying the best course of action.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I so, so, so agree with you. Our kids never have time to just write for the sake of pure enjoyment. I’m the literacy coach in charge of all of the writing and I hate that! We have to do better!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What reflective piece! I know you and how you work with students. They are proud at their publishing parties and I have had several students want to share their work with me from your class. I do understand the other side, especially as I am doing this activity for the first time. It does make you wonder how to create that balance.


  10. You are certainly a reflective teacher. Your students are lucky. I think that kids today have so many distractions (video games, internet, social media, neverending sports, etc.) that our job of hooking them on writing is extra challenging at times. Yet, we fight on!


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