Monday, December 5, 2016

The Act of Writing

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this space for me to share my corner of the world.

I am a "BBC" workshop teacher, and I am not a very good one at that.  I have been trained by "Books, Blogs, and Conferences", and I have never seen workshop in action. So when something goes well in my classroom, I am thrilled.  

We just finished a unit on historical fiction, which is not an easy genre to write.  I planned my mini lessons based on what I thought my students would need to be successful in the unit, along with lessons based on observations I noticed in their prior writing.  

We spent three weeks writing these narratives - the longest time most of my students had ever spent on a piece.  I am sure this seems odd to many of you, but you have to understand that my students do not come from workshop classrooms. They come from prompt writing, and many are very good prompt writers.

But this week I set them free.  Free from the restraints of formulaic writing.  Free from the rules that bind them to writing prompts.  Free to completely immerse themselves in the act of writing.  And it was wonderful.

After the unit I asked them to list two things they learned about writing in these three weeks.  Yes, I had many who listed the mini lessons I taught and the rules I told them they could break and why, but I also had students who learned lessons I didn't teach. The lessons they learned by simply writing.  Here are some of their responses:

  • "I learned that you can twist the writing rules a bit for your story."
  • "I learned that you can write a one sentence paragraph."
  • "You can start a new paragraph when you want to make the sentence before stand out."
  • "I learned that writing is to entertain people."
  • "Writing isn't just putting words on to a piece of paper."
  • "I learned that you don't have to write with guidelines like we do with a prompt."
  • "I learned how hard it is to write."
  • "I learned that writing is a very complicated process."
  • "I learned that you can use sentence fragments when you want to emphasize something in your writing."
  • "I learned that you can't just write a story and be done."
  • "Writing takes a long time."
  • "That it is hard and takes a lot of work, but it is fun."
That is what teaching writers is all about.

(I am in the process of adding student writing to a new page on my blog.  Click here to read one of their narratives.)


  1. What a great and insightful post. This line floats up from the page:
    " ...this week I set them free ..."

  2. This writing stamina will serve them well. The hard, long work is worth it. It's so important for us to allow our students this opportunity to learn by doing the work and not just by producing the prompt. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Good lessons learned. I wish I had had a chance to learn them as a student.

  4. What a great unit! You are clearly a talented writing teacher and have inspired your students. I love that you "set them free."

  5. This made me smile as I envisioned your class. Yes, set them free from prompts and let them write. Love their reflections!

  6. I am a BBC teacher as well! I love the responses and reflections your students shared.

  7. What Kevin said. And, good for you!

  8. Incredible responses from your students!

  9. I love their responses. They found out what writing is.