“What do I write about” echoes in the classroom.
“What do you want to write about?”
“I don’t know. I have a boring life.”
Here I am, stuck again with this common blogging problem: What do you write about? As a blogger myself, I get this. I am always on the lookout for good topics for my own blog, but how do I teach this awareness to my students?
“My birthday is next week. I’m having my first sleepover.”
When students come in the door wanting to tell me or their classmates something important that is happening in their lives, I look at them and say, “Sounds like a great blog post.”
A student may tell me a story about the time his mother accidentally hit another car in the parking lot and her sister started screaming uncontrollably and the cops came and…
“You can write about this story on your blog,” I say, gently nudging this student toward a computer.
Eventually, my students will begin to tell each other what events may make a good blog post.
Draw a Handprint
I use writer’s notebooks in my classroom. Writer’s notebooks are a place for gathering ideas. One activity I’ve used to gather ideas is a handprint. Draw the outline of your hand on a clean page. In each finger of your handprint, write something that is important to you. Kaia, second grade, filled her fingers with words like family, pets, and things she likes to do. From this activity, she discovered that she wanted to write about her uncle coming to visit and how he will take her bowling.
My Uncle is visiting Saturday through next Saturday and I am excited He is coming back. So I will dress pretty and I will change when we get to the bowling alley. I slipped the last time so I hope I don’t slip this time. Haha! so back to the bowling alley. I will change into some exercise shorts with a shirt.
We are going to Ihop afterwards. If you don’t know what Ihop is, it is a place where you get waffles and pancakes. I will know I will have fun with my Uncle Terry.
In her book Heart Maps, Georgia Heard fills the pages with all kinds of heart maps. I give my students blank copy paper and ask them to fold the paper and draw the shape of half a heart. They cut this out and draw, color, write, filling the heart with everything they can think of about their family, their pets, their favorite holidays, whatever. You can make a heart map about anything. What I love about heart maps is they give students access to the creative side of their brains. Students generate ideas that they may not think about using a linear graphic organizer.
One of my students accidentally drew his heart outline on the open side of the paper, so he decided his was a broken-heart map. He wrote about things that break his heart.
Another student had already written a post about her dog, but while drawing a heart map, she realized details she had left out. Her heart map led her to revising and expanding her blog post.
Student to Student
Ideas spread like a spark to a flame. On our Kidblog site, students are reading and commenting on each other’s posts. They generate ideas generically. If one student writes about learning to swim, another might write about learning to ride a bike. As part of a community, we all have common experiences but different views on them. Whenever there is a common experience such as a flood or even a field trip, students will write about it from their own perspective.
Next time a student tells me he doesn’t have anything to write about, I’ll send him back to his notebook to look at his heart map or to create a new one. Ideas are all around. Notice and take note.