Over the last five years, I’ve had the good fortune to meet and write with a whole lot of kindergarteners, and when I ask them if they love to write, the majority tell me that they do. Enthusiastically.
I’ve also had the good fortunate to meet and write with a whole lot of middle school students as well. But when I ask them if they love to write? The numbers are much lower, and their enthusiasm isn’t nearly as great.
I’m not certain, but I have to wonder if this might have something to do with the amount, frequency, and type of writing we ask older kids to do.
Kids need to write daily about things that matter to them. They need to curl up with the stories that tip-toe around the edges of their consciousness while we’re making them use evidence to support their claims about some article they never would have picked up on their own. Don’t get me wrong: that sort of work is important. There are so many, many things I would have no awareness of or interest in had a teacher not assigned my study of them. Our assignments aren’t enough though, and if kids are only writing to complete assignments, they will never become real writers. And it’s important for us to create real writers.
Real writers are able to use their words to advocate for social justice. They’re story tellers who challenge readers to think deeply about what it means to be decent people. They’re poets whose words can tickle the giggles out of an appreciative audience just as well as they sit beside the lonely and the misunderstood. Real writers are self-aware, socially conscious, and deeply compassionate people.
When we consider this, our work as writing teachers begins to feel a bit more daunting, doesn’t it?
It doesn’t have to be this way.
We can begin by helping writers connect to what matters most to them and by encouraging them to establish meaningful habits. The notebook challenge below provides a simple start for those who are interested in beginning a daily writing habit. I hope you’ll share it with the writers you care about most.