Three Classroom Lessons from my own 31 day Writing Challenge

I just completed my second year in the Slice of Life 31 day writing challenge (thanks www.twowritingteachers.org).  It was wonderful!  It was also…a challenge!

Here are some things I learned that I’m bringing back to the classroom.

  1. It’s hard to write when I don’t feel like it!  

Several times I sat down and just didn’t feel like writing.  And that was hard.  Confession: When I tell my students now we will take some time to write, I’m less sympathetic than I could be if they are slow to start. This challenge built up my empathy!  And an empathetic teacher can go a long way towards progress. Experiencing that stuck feeling reminds me of the importance of the next two lessons.  

Teacher Question: How do we encourage and motivate “stuck” writers?

2) A community of writers is important.  Getting feedback and having an audience is essential.

Part of what kept me going even when I didn’t feel like writing was the community of writers.  I’ve established online friendships with these writers. I care about what they have to say in their own writing, and I know some of them will be reading mine.  This is an important “why” for getting over “not feeling like it!”  Knowing that my piece will be read by a peer is motivation to work through the process toward a better product.  

Teacher Question: How do we build our classroom writing community?

3) My writer’s notebook is key.

This was my second year with this writing challenge.  Both times, my personal writing habit was in a bit of a lull as I began.  I noticed each time that as I got further into the month, I was more prone to capture the fleeting thoughts of the day.  

For instance, I remember a story I’ve never written down; Oh, I could write about that, let’s jot it in my writer’s notebook.  The google doc I use for a writer’s notebook is over 50 pages long.  Scrolling through it reminds me of unused ideas and previously used but repeatable formats.  It’s inspiration of my very own making.  To develop my writing life, it is essential.  

Teacher Question: Is the Writer’s Notebook a regular part of the classroom culture and routines?

If you haven’t worked through the writing process in quite some time, what’s stopping you?  Maybe you could participate with your students during a writing unit.  Or maybe you have some personal stories you could workshop as a gift for a parent, child, or loved one.  What if the next time you talked about idea generating with students, you had this real-life recent experience?  What if when sharing about finding just the right word to capture that moment, you could use your own writing as an example?  And what if you stood back and looked at a finished piece of work and just felt great about it?  Bonus points if someone else told you what a nice job you did;  It’s nice to get a nod of appreciation.  

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