From Every Kid a Writer by Kelly Boswell
Every Kid a Writer focuses on students who might appear reluctant or disengaged when it comes to writing, sharing different strategies meant to reignite the spark of energy and joy in students. There are also a few things we can do as teachers of writing to reignite our own energy and joy. So here are a few tips to keep in mind as you journey on your way.
Live with Your Eyes Wide Open
Writers live with their eyes wide open. They think about their writing even when they aren’t writing. They notice a leaf or the way the wind moves through the trees and they tuck these moments, images, and words inside a notebook or in the recesses of their mind to pull from later when they are writing.
Just as we teach writers to think about their writing even when they’re not writing, we as writing teachers can think about instruction even when we’re not teaching. No, I’m not suggesting that we bury ourselves in our work and think about teaching every moment of every day. But I do think it’s helpful to be on the lookout for things in your life that you can use in your teaching.
The lessons we plan and the writing experiences we provide to students don’t need to be flashy or fancy. It’s more important that our lessons and writing experiences be meaningful, relevant, and purposeful.
I keep these questions at the forefront of my mind whenever I am planning a lesson or writing experience for kids:
- Is it meaningful? Is what I’m about to ask my students to do meaningful, or is it simply a writing task?
- Is it purposeful? Is the writing I’m asking students to do serving a purpose other than simply checking a box to say that we did it? Is this writing going to impact an actual reader inside or outside the classroom?
- Is this something that real writers do? Do all writers fill out a graphic organizer each time they write? Do real writers recopy everything they write until it is correct? Do published writers write in five-paragraph form? If it’s not something that actual writers do, then it’s probably not meaningful or purposeful either.
- Would I be engaged in this work? Is this an experience that I would enjoy doing? If not, chances are that students won’t enjoy it either.
Focus on Relationships
As a mom, I’ve noticed that my children take more risks, make more growth, and enjoy learning when they have a good relationship with the teacher. Yes, it’s important that you know the content, but it also helps when kids feel that you know them, understand that you value them, and see you working to build solid relationships with them.
Live a Joyfully Literate Life
There’s not one shred of evidence that shows a positive correlation between the hours that you (as a teacher) spend at school and student success. There’s no prize for who works the most hours. In fact, I would argue that you just might be a more effective, energized, and interesting teacher if you strive to live a joyfully literate life outside of school.
So, read professionally. Read for pleasure. Get lost in an audiobook while you take a walk or listen to a podcast as you commute. Sign up for a class and learn something new. Experience what it’s like to be lost in a book, deeply engaged in a topic, or on the learning side of a classroom. Not only do these experiences make us more interesting and joyful humans, but they also let us bring these experiences into our teaching so that we stay fresh and invigorated.
Bonus: When you have interests to draw from beyond school, you always have something to write about when you are modeling your own writing in front of kids.
Be a Writer
It’s really hard (in fact, I would say almost impossible) to teach someone to do something that you don’t do yourself. If we are going to be teachers who help reignite the spark of writing in our students, we’re going to need to make sure our own spark for writing is ignited. The more we write, the more we learn about writing. The more we learn about writing, the more we are able to teach and coach other writers.
Learn from Others
Along with being a writer, learning from others has had the greatest impact on my growth as a writing teacher (and, therefore, the greatest impact on the energy and engagement in my writing classroom).
The more I watch other teachers teach and invite them to watch me, the more I grow and learn and stretch myself as a person, a learner, and a teacher. Friends, teaching is not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. We desperately need each other. So fling wide open the doors of your classroom and let others in! And then ask if others will do the same for you.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
The goal of all this planning and teaching and conferring and assessing is, simply, for kids to fall in love with writing. We want kids to find words that they love and never let them go. We want kids to see writing as a way to connect with others, share ideas, and engage in civil discourse. We want kids to know that writing is a powerful tool that they can use to think, reflect, remember, and influence others. We want kids to discover that the act of writing is its own reward. We want them to know, deep in their bones, that writing has so much to give and so much to teach.
We want kids to live joyfully literate lives. It starts with us.
Kelly Boswell has many years of experience as a classroom teacher, staff developer, literacy coach, and district literacy specialist.
Her latest book, Every Kid A Writer, will be available in October 2020. She is the coauthor of Crafting Nonfictionand Reading Solutions and the author of Write This Way and Write This Way From the Start. She is also the author of several nonfiction children’s books.
Kelly works with schools and districts around the country to support educational leaders, coaches and teachers. Her emphasis is on developing literacy practices that help students become joyful and passionate readers and writers.