Sharing the Love of Writing

Writing. As a teacher I spend a lot of time thinking about writing. It seems to be a giant topic for discussion and wonder amongst teachers every school year. How do we teach writing? We investigate writing during professional development sessions, it is embedded in our school development plans, we spend countless dollars on resource materials, and it drives the work in our professional learning communities. It can feel like one of the great mysteries of teaching. How do we really and truly inspire students to write?

I always have many questions when it comes to teaching writing. How do I hook them into the process? How can we break the infamous writer’s block? How do they learn to express their ideas clearly and vividly? How should they organize their writing? And the list goes on. But what I have realized over time is that at the core I think students need to see themselves as writers. How do they do this? Ironically by writing. Writing something they feel good about because they created it, own it and it came truly from them. It is their voice and theirs alone, unedited and untouched by others. I believe by building a history of successes, and in this case writing successes, students begin to see themselves in a different light. They start to see they are capable, they can create artifacts that reflect who they are, and they have a voice that matters.

So much of not being able to write is fear. Even though I love to write I am fearful every time I sit down to write a blog post. What if it isn’t “right”? What if I have nothing to say? What if someone doesn’t like it? What if I sound like I don’t know anything? Writing when others may see it makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. I would guess many of my students feel the same. However a great realization I had today was although writing these blog posts isn’t easy at all, it is now easier. In this I have gained so much more empathy, understanding and perspective toward my students and their evolution as writers.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk captures the human phenomena that pairs writing and creativity with pressure and fear. Can we reframe “the relationship between humans and the creative mystery”. Can we use these ideas to cultivate opportunities for students to  positively experience writing?

The beauty of teaching and learning in such dynamic times is that we are surrounded by rich online resources that provide endless possibilities for writing. Now when we want to write we have choice, flexibility and access. I think we need to help students find an outlet for writing that excites them and build their successes from there. I don’t think the venue or the genre or style matters if it means we get children hooked on writing. If they discover they can express themselves by tweeting or creating comics or writing from photos in Flickr then we are on the road to something special.

Online tools have broken the traditional molds of where, when and how we write. These tools give us platforms to express, respond, collaborate, debate, challenge, question, publish, and discuss. We can now so easily connect with other people through our writing. Suddenly there are engaging, exciting and dynamic opportunities that are rich with inspiration and creativity.

I stumble across many amazing tools for writing on Twitter and on other educators’ blogs. Tools that make me want to jump in and get creative, and ones that I really hope will inspire students to write. Perhaps inspire them to take another step and experience another writing success. I have been bookmarking these tools in my Delicious and Instapaper accounts. I thought I would create a Delicious stack to share with you and I encourage you to add to it. Let’s pool these links together and inspire our students to write!

It is an amazing time to be a learner and it is an amazing time to begin to see yourself as a writer.

Please share your favourite writing tools and resources in the Inspire Writing Delicious stack or leave them in the comment box and I will add them for you. How do you inspire your students to write?

7 thoughts on “Sharing the Love of Writing

  1. Thanks for your great posts! I also LOVE that Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk and have quoted it at folks quite a bit. In fact, it explains how I feel about the first song I wrote – The Man in the Moon.

    I took an amazing creative writing course during my undergrad. The prof. put together an amazing collection of writers writing on writing. Perhaps one of the most useful exercises was when we were asked to really consider our censors – those dissenting voices we all have to overcome in order to move forward as writers. I found that once I had personified that voice and discovered its constituent parts, I could ask that ‘person’ to just sit by during my free-writing time and then give her the golden, red-inked pen when it came time for editing.

    I don’t think we can inspire others to write… not really. All we can do is talk through what it means to be able to have a conversation with yourself, with a fantasy world, with our past, with our pen and create a space where writing helps you belong. After that, we can leave the inspiration to the muse.

    • Will you perform “The Man on the Moon” for us next class? That would be so great! There is such value in sharing with students the conversation we have with ourselves (great way to phrase it!) when we write. I think for young/new writers it might be quite a mystery as to what goes on in your head as you write. Sharing those thoughts and modelling the process can help demystify it. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thanks for this very thoughtful post, Tannis. I face some of these same issues with my graduate students. Surprised? But the biggest concern I have is that many new scholars work really hard on their writing to sound smart. Not to be clear, or expressive, or graceful. They want to sound smart, and they mimic the writing of seasoned academics from scholarly journals. Of course, these are not the models I would like my students to have in many cases. Academic writing can be stifling, over-wrought, and pedantic–not all of it, mind you, but a disturbing amount of it. I worry that this kind of academic writing actually squashes expression and creativity.

    I do think that blogging and even micro-blogging have opened up writing and encouraged writing for expression. I have known a number of people who struggled as writers in formal educational settings, and who turned themselves into powerful writers over time by blogging regularly for an audience. I think the idea that people are actually paying attention to what we write makes us much more attentive to the craft of writing, and the simple but daunting practice of communicating through words.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Rick! You raise such an interesting point about academic writing and the risk of losing your voice. Is there a growing trend to encourage a change in academic writing? Is there change coming to support this expression and creativity? Will journals publish it? I wanted to share this dissertation with you, if you haven’t seen it, by Dr. Hughes-Decatur as shared by @jonbecker http://bit.ly/sRsIT9

  3. Give them an audience. Let them blog, tweet, instant message and share their thoughts with the world. Reflect on your own K-12 eduction. When you wrote in class, who was your audience? For the vast majority it was the teacher and ONLY the teacher. By the time they hit middle years most kids realize that they are writing for a very small audience and that robs them of the motivation to write. Kids today write more recreationally than at any other time in the history of the world because of the feedback they receive from their peers, their family and the world. We need to bring this to every classroom. Give them an audience!

    • Thank you for stopping by and sharing your ideas, John! It is so true that for so long the only member in my audience was my teacher. Pretty quiet crowd! I gain so much more from a broad and diverse crowd as the process is dynamic and connected. This of course will hold true for our students. Thanks!🙂

  4. Pingback: A Journey Paved with Stories | Aspiring to Higher Tech

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