If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
- Stephen King, American fiction author
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
- Robert A. Heinlein, American science fiction author
The one thing you can’t do when you’re writing is not think. Not sure if you agree? Go ahead, try it. Write some thoughts about a fond or funny memory on a sheet of scrap paper:
Admit it—you were thinking while you wrote, right? Now, those of you who did actually write something when prompted above (or at least composed some thoughts mentally) have had some prior success with writing, yes? You may have written a solid master’s thesis in graduate school, or you may have won over an old flame with a love poem. Someone at some point in your life was moved by your written words.
There are very few of you, though, who think of yourselves as writers today. You can easily go years without writing something artistic or scholarly of your own volition. That might be because you don’t think you’re talented enough. It’s no fun to write, so you don’t try, and you don’t develop your talent.
Check out what Fran Kick has to say on this subject:
The burden that all writers bear is that in order to write something of value, one must first possess valuable ideas. And because writing is an art form, most people find the activity a little too daunting. Writing, just like painting, sculpting, skateboarding, singing, dancing, or cooking, requires work, effort, dedication, and practice.
So, when we as non-writing teachers invite our students to write, why are we surprised by their reticence? Here’s a “novel” idea: If we truly want our kids to enjoy the writing process, we simply must enjoy it with them. This means that we will write along with our students. We will literally put ourselves in their seats. When we ask them to write a journal entry, we write a journal entry of our own. When we ask them to compose a found poem, we write our own. Informational essay, short response, haiku, you name it—yes, we write it with our students.
Your students will appreciate your efforts, and they’ll have a model to emulate, as well. The best reason to do this is that you’ll deeply understand the thinking process required to complete the assignment, and you’ll be more helpful as a result.
Writing Joyfully 101
As we approach the autumn season, try this creative and entertaining writing activity with your students:
Exquisite Corpse Collaborative Poem (Great Halloween-themed Activity):
- Ask each student to write one sentence on the first line of a sheet of paper.
- Sentence frame for reticent writers: On a _____________ night, I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to _____________________________________________.
- Be sure to take a seat among your students so that you are part of the group.
- All students now pass their papers to an adjacent student so that the papers move in a sinuous line that forms a circuit. Note: If your desks are arranged in traditional rows, the last student in the chain will need to walk to pass his or her paper to the first student in the chain. Here’s a simple diagram:
- Now, each student reads the line written by the original author and writes the next line below it. The students then fold the paper between the two lines so that only the second line of the poem (the line they just wrote) is now visible.
- All students now pass their papers in the same direction as before. They then read the line of the poem that is visible and write the next line below it. They should fold it again so that only the line they just wrote is visible.
- Repeat this process until each student receives the page with which he or she began.
- Students are to read the poem silently, trying to contain the giggles, and then write a title for the poem at the top of the page.
- They’ll be eager to share their exquisite corpse poems.
We’ll be eager to read what you and your students come up with! Post your exquisite corpse poems here in the Comments Section. (Please be sure to remove information that would identify your students.)