A few weeks ago, I wrote about research papers and the writing process. Today I will again write about writing, but a different type of writing - writing fluency and finding your voice. Imagine the scene - you need to write something, and nothing is coming out. You stare at a blank Google Doc and there is no inspiration. Well, that has been me for the past few days. Anything I start writing about pales in comparison to the crisis in Ukraine, so I delete it and say a prayer for the people of Ukraine and for world peace.
I can picture teens going through a similar experience as they work on writing assignments that are difficult. Some people love writing, and it comes easily to them, for others it’s more challenging. We are very fortunate to have a high-school English teacher who was trained in the Writing Project, and she has brought her magic to our school. I call it magic because I have witnessed students who struggled with writing for years, blossom in her classroom. I have seen students for whom writing is a non-preferred activity, as well as beautiful, eloquent writers who can manipulate language artistically, become paralyzed as they approach each assignment as if it were an Olympic performance.
In Ms. Anne’s classroom students keep a blog about something that interests them. By giving students a choice to write about something they love and are interested in, they find their voice. Not only that, but they also learn to enjoy writing. Through their blogs, our students identify something that piques their interest that they will write about for the year. Since it is a subject that they know about, the writing is not measuring knowledge, it’s a type of journal about something they love. It’s all typed so their hands shouldn’t get tired. In this way, the focus is fluency, and like anything in life, the more you do something, the better you become at it. The goal is to give students an opportunity to write and write often. Through this practice they will become better writers. All that we ask of them is to give the process a chance and to try to open up on paper. “Talk” to the page (or computer) the way you would to a friend. And if you have a hard time getting started, set a timer, and just write for that period of time. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be error free. There is no judgment, just effort, and it’s about something you like. The objective is to get your thoughts on the page.
I have used this same technique in the Economics class I teach. As I tend to work with 10th and 11th grade students, they have already had Ms. Anne for at least a year. I reserve a few class periods each year for current events. We read an article from the Wall Street Journal related to what we are studying in class, and then we “write a response.” Students are used to having prompts to answer, but I want them to get used to formulating opinions and working in ambiguous, open-ended situations as we mirror what the professional world is like. Usually, the ones who struggle most with this type of assignment in my class are my high achievers, and they want to know the rules in order to do well. My response is usually the same, pretend you are in Ms. Anne’s class, and just write for the next 15 minutes. I just want to know what you’re thinking. We’ll go from there. There’s no right or wrong.
So, for this week’s post, that’s what I did. I have pretended to be a student in Ms. Anne’s class, and I have “just written” for 30 minutes. Next time your child is struggling with putting something down on a page, ask them to tell you about something they love - be it a video game or a friend. As they start telling you about it, ask them to write it (type it) for you for five minutes.
If you’re curious about some of our students’ blogs - here are some of the ones that were published externally:
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