I’m pretty sure I was born with a pen in my hand. I started writing about the world around me as young as I can remember. I always had thoughts in my head. Sometimes large, sometimes small, sometimes colorful, sometimes black and white. But they were always there, eating away at my little mind for as long as I can remember. Luckily, my youngest is following in those footsteps.
I loved to fill up white sheets of paper with my thoughts. I would turn them into stories, poems, journal entries, whatever else was in my head that day waiting to get out. It has always been my passion. That passion took me through school. My love for reading and writing helped me turn spelling lists into poetry, and win essay contests. Math wasn’t a strong point for me, so I poured myself into literacy. Books took me into different worlds and writing brought me back into the present.
When I became a teacher I knew I would share this passion with my students and encourage them to love literacy the way I do. I would take their little minds and mold them. I would help them create little books, poems, and reports and they would do so with enthusiasm and pride. Well, because everyone loves writing, right?
Teaching can be a wake up call. In more ways than one. This will be my eleventh year of teaching. Eight years as a first grade ESL teacher and now I teach fifth grade writing in a departmentalized model. I LOVE teaching writing. But my greatest hurtle is realizing that not all students do. In fact some actually hate it. *GASP.*
Here is what I have learned so far about teaching children to write.
1). Sometimes, I have to put on a show. I tell students all the time that “the day you stop caring what people think about you, is the day you become free.” I like to dance around and get in their faces and make them laugh. I like to think they are laughing with me and not at me. Regardless, the days “I put on a show,” are the days they actually have some of their best writing pieces.
2). Children love visuals. Our eyes are automatically drawn to visuals. Not only do they stir the imagination, but they bring words to life in so many different ways. I try to incorporate visuals in my examples, and in products I make for my store. My ESL students benefit immensely from this but so do all of my students. I try to add a visual no matter I am teaching.
3). Teach them to make mistakes. I tell my students all the time that we learn from our mistakes and grow from them. All of our first drafting is done in our writing notebooks. Even though my students have one-to-one chromebooks, I still make them write with pencil, cross out, add post notes and edit, revise, edit, revise. I want them to change and grow. There is no such thing as “finished product” in my eyes.
4). Modeling is KEY. Whether you are teaching beginning or advanced writers, modeling is important. So many times I’ve wanted to give directions without taking that extra step to show what I expect first. I ALWAYS end up having to go back to model my expectations. If we take that extra time at the beginning, we eliminate frustration from both ends.
5). Make your learning environment cozy. I learned to dabble with flexible seating this year, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I plan to blog more about that later, but for now, I know that they love sitting on the rug with pillows around them, or in a rocking chair with a lap desk. I found that students do their best thinking when they are comfortable.
I have had so many students tell me this year that they learned to love writing in my classroom and it makes my heart sing. Writing should not be a daunting task, it should be a stress relief, and an outward expression. We, as teachers, parents, caregivers, and role models should not be teaching them to be stressed when they are asked to write. What we should be doing is creating little authors.