Dancers want to dance, and they dance well. Even if they don’t, they are still happy because they like to dance and they get to. As long as dancers can dance, they are content. What if we replace “dancers” with “singers”? Singers, too, are happy as long as they can sing. What about writers? Are they happy when they get to write? Do they still feel hopeful when they get stuck? What if these writers are young 3rd grade students? Is it true that there are “reluctant writers” in the classroom? When I opened up this conversation to myself, it really sounded pathetic. There are no “reluctant” dancers or singers. As teachers, I thought, we should quit saying that there are “reluctant” writers, no matter what.
You and I know that some students will say, “I don’t have anything to write.” This type of student normally sits at their desk for the entire 45 minute period doing nothing, if not interrupting others. How can we help them? My answer? I can’t make them write! What a bad teacher I am! Really, the truth is that we have to make the student believe they are a writer. Once they become a writer, they will be happy when they write. They will be hopeful when they are stuck. The teacher’s job is to help the student’s self-discovery process.
As soon as students hear their teacher calling them writers at the start of a writing mini lesson, they feel like writers, which is great for younger aged students. However, what’s sadly true is that some students’ fingers and brains freeze when the actual writing time begins. Do you remember that dancers dance because they know they are dancers? Why not writers too? How and when do students think they are writers?
We all know children’s developmental stages vary. Some kids respond to the prompt or learn certain skills quickly while others don’t. One thing that I think helps is having a “discussion” period. Instead of going straight into independent writing after the mini lesson, let the students talk! What do you want to write about today? Why are you choosing this topic? What strategies do you want to use today? What do you think about other kids’ ideas? Who could be the main characters today? Are we ready to write?
Question, question, and question…. Let the students fuel and engage in the conversation. Maybe, you can record what they are saying. When they say, “I forgot everything I said,” show the voice recorder and say, “here you go. You can rewind and listen to this as many times as you want.” This questioning routine is established with teacher modeling. Students can do it with each other, or even independently with a sheet of paper with their questions. If students engage in talking, that’s when they believe they are writers! What a great discovery!
Once they become writers, they want to get better, just like dancers and singers do. Perfect! When they want to improve, take advantage of it! Teachers now teach elaboration skills, transitional words, how to develop characters, a rich vocabulary, etc to fancy up the students’ writing! How exciting is that?
Whatever writing skill level each student is at, discovering themselves as a writer can happen as long as they engage in talking! You know how much kids love talking! Why do they talk? Just like dancers and singers, because they LOVE talking! So when you see a student who seems to be stuck, let them struggle, let them talk, and let them discover the writer in themselves rather than labeling them as “reluctant”. We are teachers, just like dancers and singers. Don’t forget to celebrate with A Banana Dance! P.S. Please let me know if you don’t know what a banana dance is. I will be glad to share with you!