What does it mean to identify as teacher-writer?
I write with my students, I write for my students, I write to understand my students, I write to understand my teaching and my students’ learning. That’s probably the definition of teacher-writer.
Today I experimented with a writing provocation I found in a Teachers and Writers Magazine article. It attracted my attention because it began with doing–actually with a blind contour drawing. I love to have students do something as a provocation for writing–probably because I like to DO as a way to instigate my own writing.
So, following the directions in the article, I used my non-dominant hand to draw my hand, keeping my eyes on my hand and not on the drawing. I tried not to lift my pen, keeping my pen following all the lines and shapes I saw on my hand.
After drawing I opened my notebook and began a list of words evoked by my examination of my hand. then I came up with some metaphors. I thought back to memories about what my hands had touched or done, capturing some of those thoughts in my notebook. I went on to express my gratitude to my hands.
The next step was to write about my hand, using the ideas generated before–or not–for about 7 minutes (my favorite writing time!).
Finally, using a different colored pen, I added words to my blind contour drawing of my hand, creating a collage of sorts. I didn’t directly copy my writing, just added some of the words and phrases I had generated.
Students could go on to write an essay or ode about their hands, having generated a plethora of ideas.
Having tried this writing on as a writer myself helps me identify how it might or might not work for my students. My young students might do better studying their non-dominant hand and using their dominant hand for drawing. I know they will worry about how the drawing might come out–I’ll have to show them some strategies and perhaps do a practice or two before we start for real. We may brainstorm words about their hands as a group before they begin their individual lists. But, I think I’ll try this project with my students. I love the blind contour aspect, the close examination, and the way that careful attention leads to more interesting writing.
What strategies do you use to keep the writerly part of yourself sharp? How do you hone your skills as a teacher-writer? Does anyone know a great picture book that focuses on one body part that is not about hands?
“Having tried this writing on as a writer myself helps me identify how it might or might not work for my students.”
This is why I write with my students, too.
Thanks Kevin. There’s something special about writing with students, and I like that they expect that from me too.
Thanks for trying on this idea and passing it along. I love how your hands became a “time capsule” for your life. Your contour drawing is pretty good. I’d hate to think how I would do with my wimpy left hand. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the poem-teller idea. I used it all week with students. It has made my third grader write her “best poem ever.”
Yay! I’m glad it worked for you too! I love that it helped your student write her “best poem ever!”