Good writing reveals our inner selves in a most personal way. It puts us out there for public scrutiny. Writing begins a most intimate conversation between the writer and reader.
Working as a Writers in the Schools (WITS) writer, taught me so much about how to open up my self to the personal details that making writing a better exchange between reader and writer. WITS pairs a professional writer in the classroom with a certified teacher.
Lessons are created that move students deeper into their response to a particular writing topic so that they become personal. After the introductory lesson, both the teacher and writer move around the class conferencing with individual students to ask more questions that prompt deeper thinking and more personal writing.
One lesson we did was “My Name.” This lesson is based on Sandra Cisneros’s piece by the same title found in her book The House on Mango Street. The writer reads Cisneros’s piece to the class, and then with their help pinpoints what makes this piece personal, powerful, and fresh – creating that personal conversation with the reader.
The writer and the teacher usually read their pieces to the class to generate further discussion. Word choices, introductions and conclusions are highlighted as strong points in each of the pieces.
Then the teacher and writer help the class to brainstorm other questions that might apply to the name of anyone in the class. As students generate ideas/questions, the list is posted on the board. By this time, personal writing ideas have been born in the students are they are chomping at the bit to begin their own pieces.
Through this lesson process, students gain the desire to share the important details about their own names. Writing becomes more natural. Writers become eager to share because they feel that what they have to say is both personal and important.
Of course, many unique perspectives about each student’s name present themselves in the drafted pieces. The final step in all writing process lessons is either small or large group sharing. As these pieces are shared, student comments and feedback identify writing choices that they found particularly powerful and well chosen. Finally, students are given time to revise their pieces. When illustrated and published these pieces can turn into a keepsake of a class anthology.
Taking the time to make writing personal for students is a journey worth taking.