Every day, at the beginning of writing workshop, we have a 5-minute silent writing time. Sometimes, I do a mini lesson first and sometimes, we just do 5 minutes of silent writing. Afterwards, the kids go off to work on their own writing projects.
Most days I’ve given my students free reign about what they are going to write during the silent writing time. But I’ve also provided a suggestion or two, such as a word of the day, for those kids who always seem to struggle with topic choice.
Some kids, who love to write and would write all day if I let them, have done fine with the freedom and the unstructured time.
Others have floundered.
Even though I know this is happening, I soldiered on. I figured that eventually they would write something. Most of the time, this approach has worked. However, I’ve ignored when it hasn’t worked more times that I would like to admit.
Then, I rediscovered Linda Rief’s quick writes book. I don’t own the original book or the new one that was published recently. I’ve wanted to purchase them, but wondered if the excerpts and suggestions would work with my grade 5 students; I know Linda teaches middle school. So I downloaded a sample chapter from the Heinemann website to give it a try.
The last couple of days have been quite a revelation.
My students have written more in the last two days during silent writing time and more of them have voluntarily shared their writing with the class than ever before. And, many more are engaged during the silent writing time; where they would groan, now they are engaged. Although some are still trying to figure out what the prompts are asking them to do, they are more likely to write something instead of leaving the page blank.
So, what changed? I think the biggest change is that previously students wrote alone during silent writing time. They did not have a partner to lean on or talk to about their writing. So, they didn’t know where to start. Also, their writing during this time was not anchored to anything important to them. Now, the writing they do is anchored to someone else’s writing. They now have a writing partner, just one they’ve never met.
Today, this led to storytelling and more writing. Today more and more kids not only read what they wrote, but also told stories related to the suggestions offered in the book. In fact, the energy in the room shifted. The children were starting to feel the power of their words: their writing was having a visible impact on their classmates who laughed and gasped during share time.
I can’t wait to do this again tomorrow.
Thank you Linda Rief!
Crossposted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.