Are we forcing Students to Write?

Sometime it is a struggle to know what to write each day. For March I am part of the Slice of Life Challenge and I want to write something each day that matters to me.  Yesterday took me longer than usual and as of 7PM I still was not sure what to write about.  I was reading some article I found linked on Twitter (can’t even remember what it was about) and suggested articles at the bottom included Logan’s TEDx talk.

I instantly began to reflect, to gather my thoughts, and to write.  I love participating in the SOL challenge and writing each day, but I never want to write anything just for the sake of writing or just having a post.  Each day I wait until I have something to say.  Some days it comes to me the night before (like today), the morning of, and sometimes I have to wait until after 7PM.

These were my thought last night lying in bed, and I couldn’t help but think of our students being forced to write from prompt after prompt chosen for them.  How many times do we allow students to write what they want, share how they feel, and pick a topic they are passionate about?  How can they master writing a standardized writing test when they have no opinion or could care less about the prompt they are given.  Why not give an open and generic topic like, “What do you think of education?” or “How will your past influence your future?” Are those even to specific?  “Write on something you are passionate about and why?”  Is that better?

I will look at classroom writing differently.  Give students choices in their topics and leave time for free writes.  As for the standardized test?  Hopefully, if they are able to find their voice and confidence in writing enough with self-chosen topics, the state’s topic will be easier. I hope.

How do you encourage free writes and student choice in your classroom?


proxyDuring the month of March 2015, I will be completing a daily blog as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge! More Slice of Life posts from Day 18 can be found on Two Writing Teachers.

READ & JOIN US! You can sign up here!

15 thoughts on “Are we forcing Students to Write?

  1. I give students mostly freewrites or the option to choose to freewrite if they don’t like the prompt. Some drown in the overload of “I can write about anything”. I think freewriting and allowing topic choices is the best avenue. For an upcoming argument assignment, I am giving students nearly 200 real world arguable topics and they are going to present their beliefs through real word writing choices: tweets, picket signs, letters, emails, texts, etc.

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  2. With writing workshop and writer’s notebooks come freedom of topic choice. While Penny Kittle said, “unlimited choice is no choice at all,” giving students the freedom to choose what they want to write about certainly inspires them to want to write more (about their own lives and other things)

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  3. We teach Lucy Calkins’s Units of Study, and I have to say it is amazing at giving students the freedom to write about ideas they feel passionate about. Our students have shown so much improvement in writing.

    I have to agree with you about the writer’s block. My ideas sometimes come at night when I have to time to write and sometimes I sit there just thinking. With nothing on the screen.

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  4. I’ve been struggling with this all year. We have these big 4th grade units that take forever. We just finished our biography unit and, with only a week til spring break, I gave them choice. I asked the to write about a vacation. It could be a real one their family took, one they’d like to go on or an imaginary trip. And you know what. This was the first time kids asked if they could take it home to work on it. I learned a lot this week.

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    1. I taught 8th and this is the year for the state test. I spent so much time teaching and forcing the state released prompts that I forgot how important that choice is. I bet they enjoyed writing about vacations and I am sure you enjoyed reading them.

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  5. It’s all about the writing workshop. Giving them strategies and ways to find writing territories that can be explored, and when the time is called upon, use what they know about writing to address a prompt, but writing to a prompt everyday teaches them to rely on others for ideas, which does not foster their own independence as writers.

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  6. Valid points in this piece. Using Regie Routman’s advice from her book “Writing Essentials,” I’ve started sharing my own stories – life stories – with teachers and students. So many wonderful writing ideas are sparked by the stories of others. This is a great support for those struggling with what to write.

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  7. If this challenge required me to respond to a daily prompt, I would not be able to to it. You give us much to think about for children. I wholeheartedly agree tht we need to give them choice. Our students actually write daily slices in class and post them on displays in and out of the classrooms for readers to read and make comments. It’s amazing to see what even they post.

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