How to Cultivate Writers


Yesterday I followed up on a coaching conversation from last week. A teacher had expressed concern about a student who has ability but does not produce much work product in class.

My intent was to watch her interact within the culture of the classroom to see if I could spot some strengths and possible insights to her reluctance before talking to her. Unfortunately, the teacher loudly announced my presence as I walked in.

I stood to the side for a bit waiting for the teacher to finish directions of reading material curated for them in connection to this week’s learning targets. Then he asked them to take out their writing and move to the floor.

I took this opportunity to have a quieter conversation with the little one. She brought her 2 books and her notebook. We talked about her day as we walked to my office. I assured her she wasn’t in trouble and that I just wanted to talk reading and writing with her.

This little one has a soft spoken voice and spoke like she is often interrupted – Heavy breaths lay in between her thoughts.

Her notebook didn’t have much writing. A sentence or two on some pages. Some only the date at the top with the label “Quickwrite”.

We talked about ways to make quickwrites easier for her. Then I wrote with her.

As we readied ourselves to write together she expressed a piece she had worked on earlier that she wanted to add to. PERFECT. I had her reread what she had written. I reread mine as well since I said I was adding to something I had started already.

I set a pretty hourglass timer on my phone in the middle of the table and we wrote.

Sometimes we need each other to do the thing – no matter what is.

Other ways to cultivate writing:

+Have them talk before they write.

+Use materials and resources that real writers would use – not just teaching resources.

+Writing as an experience –treat them like real writers and not just children. Acknowledge they have something to say.

+Teaching them to honor their feelings and imagination when they are in the younger grades can help them to not lose the spark that is their voice when they get older.

+Writing is not about having a formula and plugging words into it.  Don’t treat it or teach it this way.

+Write with them.

+Give them freedom and trust. They will produce amazing pieces that are heart felt and honorable. A group of fourth graders I worked with in 2006 had such great writers they sometimes moved me to tears with their insight and it was from ALL the students not just the ones you “expect” to be good writers.

+Performance is a true part of the writing process. Let your students shine that have this ability.

+Remember writing is hard and fun! Support them in both areas.

Happy Writing today!

Fine, Fine Professional Development and Llama Tuesday

Better Conversations – Jim Knight

I have been wowed this year by some amazing PD. The Better Conversations workshop was a full day. The participants found clock partners from the room which was filled with Coaches from my district and 3 surrounding states. We all stood up and found 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock partners and wrote their name down. We found them later for each section of the workshop as directed by Jim.

Jim joked that he is from Canada and he wouldn’t do anything goofy. It was a well-run workshop that was worthwhile and life-giving. 

One of the activities centered around 5 questions that I have been using since that Thursday of training. They seem simple. The exercise we used was to ask our partner the question and then give them 1 minute to answer and we could not talk. It was eye-opening.

Communication is essential for a fulfilled life yet we are all so bad at it sometimes.

Bungay’s 5 Coaching Habit Questions

  1. What’s on your mind?
  2. What’s the real challenge?
  3. What else?
  4. What do you want?
  5. What was the most useful from this conversation?

It was odd how personal and intimate the conversations became with a stranger – even though the thinking before the exercise was to not get too personal in many of the pairs. I still plan to use the exercise with my teachers at a Workshop Wednesday. Conversation is supposed to be nourishing for both parties. These questions are helping me use my #oneword for the year – CONNECT.

It is Llama TUESDAY!!!