I love those unexpected treasures that pop up in the classroom. I was lucky enough to experience one today! (Not unlike these beautiful silky white roses that grow along the edge of our playground!)
We ask our students to write at home each week in something we call a Homework Writer’s Notebook (HWN). Our goal is to help students establish a writerly habit of generating writing primarily for their own purposes (we look at the notebook on Monday’s). We encourage students to use this notebook to play with writing and language and experiment with different kinds of writing. They pick their own topics (although we do make suggestions of possibilities as they occur to us during the day) and create their own writing schedules. We talk about how excited we are to read their writing…and how this writing helps us know them better, and teach them better.
Today was my first day of spending time with students’ HWNs this year (they went home for the first time last week). I was immediately impressed that almost all of the notebooks made it into the classroom today…and almost all our students wrote at least two entries in their notebooks, and some wrote many more. And then I came across this gem written by a second grader.
My Rights to Write
I have the right to write a story that will fill your mind with enchantment and glory. I also have the right to write a story that will give you a pinch of fright and I’m warning you it might give you terrible dreams at night. I have the the right to pick up a pencil and let it glide through day and night. I have the right to let my imagination run wild. I have the right to borrow ideas of books that have gorgeous language and place them in my pencil. I have the right to make my stories expand through the sea, forest to open land…
This did not come out of the notebook of my most prolific writer or the one that loves to write the most. It wasn’t from a student looking for my approval, rushing to see me with notebook in hand. This is a student who is growing into a writer. Who is finding the stamina and desire to let her writerly voice emerge.
I love that this writer is thinking about her rights to write. Not because we suggested it as a topic (we didn’t), although we do have a poster about rights of readers in the classroom. And I’m certain she hasn’t read Spandel’s 9 Rights of Every Writer (although I thought of it when I read this piece this morning). It appears to me that she is claiming her rights as a writer!
And then I read Deanna Mascle’s blog post this afternoon asking whether we should stop teaching writing and instead focus on teaching writers (musings based on her college level experience). And I do think we need to focus on writers, helping them develop confidence, fluency, and processes that support the development of their own writing rather than tracking them into classes with teacher-focused writing assignments that leave little room for writers to emerge.
Working with young writers can be a challenge. They have so much to juggle as they tackle each writing opportunity. They not only have to find topics and develop their ideas, they also have to concentrate on forming letters, figure out how to spell the words they need, and deal with the complications of punctuation and other mechanics.
And working with young writers is inspirational! They have fresh ideas–and when things are going well they are unfettered by the constraints of the expectations that adult writers often place on themselves. This young writer today reignited my passion for supporting writers. She reminded me that writers have the right to express themselves in ways that make sense to them. I know I will hear her voice in my head as I meet with young writers in my classroom tomorrow…and I will remember that they have the rights to write!
Do you give your students the rights to write? Do you claim your own rights to write?
What a beautiful story, Kim, and an exquisite poem by your student. Inspiring work. I love the idea of the Homework Writer’s Notebook (HWN) and of establishing a “writerly habit.” Is that their only homework? What’s your opinion of homework? Thanks for sharing your practice so clearly.
That is powerful, Kim, and the desire to just be able to write .. I mean, what more do we want?