I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. My fourth grade teacher really fostered this love of writing, but it wasn’t until high school that I truly found my voice. I entered my junior year weary of the new English teacher at my small private school. He seemed very artistic, with his skinny pants and unique hair do; in other words, the antithesis of all of my other teachers. During our first week of class, he introduced our weekly journal assignment. We were instructed to fill three pages in our journal in any way we wanted, whether it was through drawing, writing poetry, or simply copying song lyrics. I think we sat there feeling pretty dumbfounded, as I heard snickers amongst my classmates, thinking what an “easy A,” this would be. That year ended up being a challenging one for me, and this journal became very comforting; it became my space. I can remember meeting with my teacher once and asking why he did this assignment, seeing as many of my classmates just filled their pages quickly and meaninglessly, in order to get the grade. He told me that maybe this assignment wouldn’t reach everyone, but if he reached just one student, then he had done his job. He certainly reached me, and somewhere along the way inspired me to become a teacher.
When shaping young writers, teaching writing style, paragraph formation, sentence structure, syntax and everything in-between is important. Formal writing assignments are a given, but over the past few years I felt as though I wasn’t giving my students the opportunity to write freely. I thought back to my junior year and the writing assignment that allowed me to express myself and my creativity. I was determined this year to incorporate journal writing into my class, but wasn’t quite sure what that would look like.
After using Kidblog for a few weeks with my students, I was beyond pleased with the positive response from my students and their involvement with our blog. We had been using Kidblog to post our formal writing assignments along with projects we were working on. When I went to check my email one evening, I had an email from one of my 6th graders, asking me if she could post her own personal story onto Bulldog Blogs. And then it hit me, a journal blog. It was genius! As much as I love inspiring my students, I love it even more when they inspire me.
I could hardly wait to introduce my students to the new concept of “My Space.” I explained that this would be their space to explore their writing freely, to take risks and make mistakes. While yes they would receive a grade on their space, what they wrote about was up to them. News articles, personal stories, fictional stories, poetry, movie reviews; anything was fair game.
My students are required to post to their space once a week, but I am finding that some of them want to post more often. I have several students that are writing books, where they post a chapter each week. Others are exploring poetry and song writing. Although this is not a requirement, they often leave each other comments such as, “I love what you are doing with your space! Keep on writing!” or “Please write more! Your story is so exciting!”
The response to our My Space assignment feels very familiar. Some of my students write their entries just to get them done, whereas others have hit the ground running. I can now truly understand my English teachers’ words, I may not reach them all, but inspiring just one is more than enough for me.
Photo Credit: Journal Entry by Ray Dumas; CC BY-SA license via flickr