Everyone has different writing styles. It’s part of what makes the world such an interesting place. No two people tell the same story the same way which I think is important. The world would be boring if everyone had the same writing style.
My writing style is vignettes. I like fitting different vignettes together and creating a story or essay that way. It’s what I’ve found through trial and error and a lot of writing works best for me. This isn’t the writing style I’m always able to write in, but it’s my preferred style and the one I naturally gravitate towards.
I talk about this because I believe that each and every students has their own unique writing style. Unfortunately, the school environment doesn’t always allow for students to discover and explore this. Writing in middle school and high school often has a lot of rules and structure surrounding it. Students are expected to write in MLA format, to write 5 paragraph essays, to learn the rules, follow the rules, and never ever break the rules.
Don’t get me wrong. The rules which often surround writing are important. Knowing these rules is important. Following the rules is important.
But they aren’t the be all end all of writing, and sometimes I wonder if these rules stifle creativity. It can be really difficult to always follow the rules of writing and they don’t allow for a lot of creative freedom. They don’t allow students to develop their voice, and everyone should at least have the option to develop their voice. Maybe we as teachers need to look for a way to provide more creative opportunities.
It’s just something to think about. Academic writing is really important and lays a good foundation for all future writing. I just think it’s also really important to allow students some time for soul searching and discovery through writing.
I think that writer’s workshops are very important. I also think that there are a variety of ways to implement writer’s workshops into the classroom and that writer’s workshops need to be implemented correctly or so much chaos could ensue.
First I want to talk a little bit about why I feel writer’s workshops are so important. I’m fairly certain that not everyone likes or will like them. And that’s OK. But hear me out before rushing towards an opinion. Writing is and of itself a very solitary activity. It’s possible to write in groups and whatnot but basically it’s the person writing, the paper, and the pen. It’s not a partying activity. But in writer’s workshops, you get to interact with people. You hear feedback and opinions and get a fresh perspective. You get to talk to people. It’s really kind of a big deal. Plus, your writing grows and develops and gets better because of everything you’re hearing.
So now that I’ve explained why I think writer’s workshops are so fabulous, I want to talk about how I think one should be run. This isn’t a time for absolute chaos or for a free for all or to just talk about anything. Writer’s workshops are about discussing writing, your writing, and how to make it better.
There are a couple of ways I think a writer’s workshop could be run. You the teacher can work individually with students while the rest of the class works independently. You can work individually with students and have the rest of the class work in partners or small groups. You can have the class work in pairs or small groups and you can float around the classroom. Any of these methods will work, depending on the makeup of your classroom, your own personal style, and the goal you are working towards.
Go forth and try something new. Maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t. But at least you would have been bold and tried.
I like journaling. I think it can be a really powerful and important tool for students. It teaches them the power of words and writing, and it gives them a voice they may not have known they had. I also understand that free writing can be difficult for students, can get them off task or off topic, or simply might lead to results you never wanted. That’ where journal prompts enter the picture.
Here are a few things that are great about journal prompts:
- They give students something specific to write about.
- They allow you, the teacher, to control the conversation.
- They can lead to really great discussion.
- They’re a great entryway into class and what the lesson will be about.
Chances are, I could ramble on and on about why using journal prompts in your classroom is a good idea. I could certainly expand upon each of the prompts I just mentioned. But sometimes brief is the best way to go, the way to get the point best across.
I love the idea of guided note taking. I’ve always been the type of student who wants to write everything in a presentation down; that’s just how I’m wired. And sometimes it’s hard to write down everything that’s on the board and listen to the professor and actually learn something. There are probably many ways to work around the dilemma, but I’m partial to the idea of guided note taking.
Here’s how it works. Make your presentation. Your PowerPoint or Google Slides or whatever it may be. Then make another copy. Take out the really important parts – key words, statistics, diagram labels. Whatever it is. Print out this copy – the one with the blanks. Give that copy to students. Allow them to fill in the important information, but don’t make them worry about the fluff. They’ll take better notes, pay more attention, and really learn the material because they aren’t panicking. (This is my theory at least.)
So give it a shot. See how it works for you. Maybe guided note taking isn’t the best fit. But I think it’s great to try something new, something a little different, and see if there’s a way to make it work. You certainly have nothing to lose.