I have found it challenging at times to inspire, influence and simply get my students to write. Over the years I’ve heard: “I can’t write”, “I don’t know what to write about”, “I don’t have anything to write about”. I think these are common statements for any teacher who has the task of teaching writing. I think almost all teachers have some expectation of writing in their classes. A college professor of mine stated: “You don’t know what you think, until you write it down.” At the time I disagreed with him, but since then I have come to see the wisdom in this statement. I do believe that our truest self is reflected in our writing.
One time when I was working with a writing specialist in my district, she said, “sometimes with students we just need to get them writing.” She then said, “once they are writing we can go back and worry about fixing the writing, making it correct. But, if they aren’t writing at all there is nothing to adjust.” Using this concept of “just write,” I have my students do a lot of free thought writing. I might show a short video clip, or give them an inspirational quote or idea and instruct them to write their thoughts. I tell them to just write, whatever comes to their mind, even if sometimes all they write is “I can’t think of anything to write”. Once they are more comfortable in writing then working to shape and improve the writing comes into play. I work with 4th graders, and recognize that the amount of free writing you choose to do will vary depending on your level of students.
Encouraging (or assigning) students to write about their passions is a great place to start in helping them develop their unique voice in writing. There are different ways to tweak this depending on your students. I found working with younger students (ages 9-12) that helping them understand what a passion is and exploring what they are passionate about can take a bit of time. Although, with my current class, I was pleasantly surprised how many of them quickly identified a passion. Many of their passions relate to activities they participate in, books that they read, goals they have set and, of course, their personal experiences. I would imagine working with secondary students their passions might start to lean more to societal topics/issues.
Once students identify a passion, providing them a place to write about it and develop a unique voice to what they write can be done easily through Kidblog. I recently decided to create a space for students to work on their unique voice. I had each student create a Kidblog Post to write about their passion. The student will be writing on their blog post a few times a month over the course of the quarter. Each time I have them write, I give them different directions for writing about their passion. I am planning on having them write with some of the following perspectives:
- Explain your passion to your best friend.
- Write a letter to the principal explaining your passion.
- Explain your passion to someone who has no knowledge about your passion.
- Pretend you are someone interested in pursuing your passion- create questions you would ask someone who already does this thing.
After the students have had a chance to write about their passion in various ways, I’ll have them compare and contrast their different styles of writing and what they like about their writing. We will talk about “Voice” in writing and the importance of finding it through written expression. I hope this will also allow for dialogue regarding when and how we use our voice in speaking and writing depending on the situation.
Austin Kleon stated “The only way to find your voice is to use it.” I think our students’ have a lot to say and helping them discover their unique voice through blogging, sharing their thoughts, and finding ways to express themselves may become a wonderful journey we can enjoy together.