Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Archive for the tag “writing”

I Write For Myself

I write to think through what I am feeling.

I write to understand.

I write to reflect on behaviors, events and processes.

I write to find out what I have to say.

I write as a way of sharing myself.

I write to question…myself, life, events and behaviors, other people, the meaning of anything and everything.

I write to learn.

I write to play.

I write to be silly….or serious….or sad….or happy…..

I write to make sense of our world.

I write to be heard. (sometimes)

I write to be introspective. (sometimes)

I’d like to interact around my thoughts and yours.

If you don’t want to read me, or know me, or think with me, or write with me, don’t.

I don’t expect you to tell me what is good for me or not when it comes to writing.

I am a writer.

I am a thinker.

I write to think.

I write for myself.


What We Get Wrong

Kids forever have asked “When will we ever have to use this?” and teachers’ responses vary. That’s where we get it wrong–not in the answer, but in our actions. We build our classroom work around teaching skills–and many times those skills are taught or worked on by kids in isolation–not in a real context. The work kids do should always have a purpose for THEM, not for us. It should make a difference in their lives.

Last year I used a real example from my life in my math class when we were studying fractions, decimals, and percents, and the kids absolutely loved it. (See the 5th grade posts here about the grocery store problem.) They worked on this problem for days, doing it not only during math time, but also during their free time.  Many even came to ask for help during our “Mastery Extension” time, a 45 minute time period where individualized work occurs. The bottom line is that the kids knew this was real, and that they had to know how to use these skills for THEIR future.

The Washington Post recently published an article on Rafe Esquith’s new book, Real Talk for Real Teachers, where he was interviewed in the article.


One of his responses was the following paragraph:

I have a chapter called ‘Keeping it Real.’ If you ask most kids in school who are doing an assignment, why they are doing it, they will say, ‘Because my teacher told me to.’ In my class, if you ask a student, ‘Why are you writing this essay or doing this problem,’ they will say, ‘Because I will learn a skill and my life will be better.’… I tell my students, ‘Of course I want you to do well on the test at the end of the year, but the real test is what you are doing in 10 years.’  My students aren’t doing anything for me. Their values are inside. They are doing it for themselves.

Rafe has it right. We need to help kids learn to do it for themselves- not grades, or our or parental approval, but for themselves. Those inside values are so much more important than our agendas. We get it wrong when we force our ways on them. Student work needs to be based in reality and matter to the kids.

Amplifying minds to delve deeper and keep it real…that’s my goal this year.

Writing as Making

I believe writing is making.  Making meaning, making sense of our world, making beauty or stories or making ideas, or whatever….. and kids know that writing can be powerful. There are lots of research studies that say kids distinguish between school writing and other writing, so I won’t go there…because Lucy taught me that firsthand.

When I worked with her in fourth grade, she was an amazingly prolific writer who was also creative, funny and imaginative. She wrote a LOT about what she knew–which is one of the first rules about writing–write from your heart, your gut, your very soul–and talk about what you know.  You can certainly use writing to learn more, but it has to begin with a grain of something you know.  You can check out her fourth grade blog here, but the one that got my attention was this one. Not only was it full of visual imagery, but her imagination and belief came through. I still go back to reread it occasionally.  I still point people to it (like I am doing now.)

She went on to write about her pets, her family, her friends, and the language she used, her descriptions and her way of telling a story just really put me right there in the moment with her and her pets, especially. She was playful with language and format, and did most of her writing outside of school, on her own time.

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Then she moved to fifth grade and I got to teach her for reading group–not writing, just reading. There was a lot of pressure this particular year, because 5th graders take a state writing test in Virginia, and with teachers and students new to 5th grade, both the kids and teachers felt that pressure. Lucy especially felt that pressure, and blogged about it.  I think her blog post says it all, and clearly shows she sees a difference between “writing” (school writing) and her own creations.

The statement “Then I started to take mastery for writing and got so many suggestions from my teachers that it took the you out of writing because I felt like I was under pressure to remember all the things that they had put on my shoulders and that was just terrible.” is referring to the fact she felt pressure to follow a five paragraph essay formula, and that is not how she naturally writes. That’s not how she “makes” stories or tells tales, or shares her life. Without that formulaic writing crutch, her writing is excellent–and I had faith the scorers of her writing test would recognize her expertise.

I hope she’s gone beyond that formula and realized how important her own judgement is….I’d love to read some of her current writing. I hope she has not let other people take “the you out of writing”.

Most of all, I hope I never take the the you out of writing,  but instead let/help/support kids make it their own.

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