Ready. Set. Write. These three words set the tone for my pedagogic philosophy about writing: For students to improve their writing, they must write often (preferably daily) and they must write in quantity.
I expect students to be ready to write daily. Additionally, rather than announcing an essay assignment at the end of a literature unit, I focus students attention on preparing for major writing assignments throughout our study of literature and weave focused writing instruction into the literature units.
As a teacher, it's my job to help students find their writing voices and to show them they have important things to say.
In its original context, it is
Lesson 1 in the "Once Upon a Time" In My Life: Teaching Narration and Description Unit.
I teach this unit concurrently w/ the unit on Anglo-Saxon Literature. This is because my goal is to use the literature as a gateway to writing, rather than teaching the units as two separate entities.
In this lesson, students will do the following:
I introduce students to "I <3 Maps" with some images I've compiled into a brief slide slide show, which culminates in a beautiful representation of a detailed heart map that obviously took the student some time to complete. I <3 Map
As I show each slide, I talk to students about the variety of symbols we use to show what we love and value.
When I get to the final slide, I tell the class that it shows a "Heart Map" and that they will be completing one, too, and that they can use color, words, images, phrases, quotes, and whatever they can imagine to illustrate what they <3.
Then I remind students about the supplies I have available in the classroom and give each a piece of unlined paper.
After introducing heart maps to students, I set the timer for 15 minutes and give them time to work. Since these students are seniors, and since the purpose of heart maps is to generate writing topics, I encourage emphasis on ideas, images, text (words and phrases), rather than "art." However, some students might need more time to generate ideas. Heart Map w/out Text is one such example. In this case, it's important to encourage the student to continue working on the project outside of class.
The Animoto video shows some student heart maps in progress. animoto I <3 video
Once time as lapsed for creating their "I <3 Maps," I tell students that we will complete a quick write. I explain the object of a quick write is to "write as much and as quickly as you can w/out worrying about where your mind leads your writing. What's important is getting ideas down on paper." I also tell students that this activity is a low-risk task and that it will help prepare them for the upcoming narrative/descriptive essay assignment.
Then I set the timer for 10 minutes and write while the students also write.
During the writing time, most students write on a separate piece of paper, but some incorporate their writing directly into their heart maps: Heart Writing shows one student's juxtaposition of the heart map w/ the quick write.
Once students finish writing, I invite them to share with the class. A quiet class might be too shy to share, which happened with one class. In other classes, students can become wary of sharing if they think their writing doesn't measure up to those who do share. When either of these things happen, I ask students to pair-and-share. I also find someone to share with as the students share.
One young man read his quick write about playing football, beginning with his father tossing the ball to him in the yard. He wrote: "When I look out my bedroom window, I see my dad throwing the ball to me in the back yard."
It was a touching essay that gave me the opportunity to comment: "I hear you saying that football is a metaphor for your relationship with your father." I also suggested several ideas for further development based on the student's love of football.
Another student read his quick write about his love of self. This student is a poet, and the class was so moved by his interpretation of his writing that he agreed to perform a slam poem for us at the end of the period. He told the class that he doesn't title his poetry, doesn't make it rhyme, and calls his writing of poetry "Word Vomit" because he just spews it on the page and rarely edits.
The student's remarks led to my asking: "Where do students get the idea that poetry must rhyme?"
Another student said, "Dr. Seuss." This is something I'll address with students more in another unit, but it did provide a teachable moment in which I was able to tell students that my favorite poetry doesn't rhyme and that they don't need to rhyme their poetry either.
This is what happens when teaching and learning converge organically. We meet in the middle, separate but together, like this student's "I <3 Map": Student Heart Map