“Write! Just put your pencil to the paper, and start writing! Write the spelling list, if you want! Writing anything ultimately leads to writing something! “ As a teacher of writing, I must have said that to my students thousands of times. Eventually, students lost the fear of the white paper, and started putting words together, and moved on to thinking of themselves as writers. No, not just writers: They were authors!
It all started with a book. At the beginning of the school year, I chose some awesome books, with wonderful illustrations, excellent language, and magnetic appeal. With younger students, I pulled out The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. Or I unpacked The Mitten by Jan Brett. Then there was always Jumanji or The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Amazing books with amazing illustrations and amazing springboard language, all them enticed those future writers/authors.
Older students discovered the writings of Lois Lowry: The Giver, Number the Stars. Some loved Jeanne DePrau: The City of Ember series. How about Red Badge of Courage? The Screwtape Letters? To Kill a Mockingbird? Who can’t read those, and find the head swimming in images, powered by words.
It all started with many books. Students kept a Reading Response Journal, in which they wrote summaries, new vocabulary, their feelings about what was read. The great thing was they didn’t have to grab words out of the word-storing part of the brain; they could use the words from the book. In fact, they were supposed to copy those words when writing about the book. Write a poem? They wrote “found poems”. They went through the book, and copied down lines with strong imagery; they used the simple predicates; they wrote down the subject of the sentence with its modifying adjectives. Line by line, their poems shouted out the power of writing. I love teaching. I loved teaching writing. I love writing most of all.