Each week, I ask my students to write at least four times in their “Write-at-Home” notebooks. I’ve tried to create “homework” experiences that are more meaningful, purposeful, and authentic. And what’s more authentic than spending a few quiet moments writing, “what’s on your heart and mind”?
A few years ago my students decided that if they wanted to feel “right at home” as writers, then they should be writing as a regular part of their work as writers. And, “Write-at-Home” notebooks were born. Simple.
Each Friday, students bring their notebooks to share in small groups. They’ve learned to listen, to nudge, and to encourage one another. They’ve learned to write for real purposes and play around with language. They’ve learned to apply the strategies and craft we’ve learned. I love walking around the room and “listening” in on their conversations each Friday… there are no rubrics, there are no formulas, there are no minimum requirements. Students write because they know that their peers will be waiting to hear how they’ve “played around with language.”
After sharing for about 20 minutes, our new ritual is to gather back at the carpet as a whole group and I ask two questions:
1) What writing did you hear today that you think we should all hear? and,
2) What was it about the writing that struck you?
Then students offer up the writing from their peers they found most interesting, well written, or craft-filled. Here are some of the comments I heard today:
- “I think we should all hear _____’s writing because he experimented with new language this week.”
- “I think we should hear _____’s writing. She wrote with a repeating line and it was really powerful.”
- “I think _____ should share the piece about her cat. I was stunning.”
- “_____ wrote a great piece about baseball! I felt like I was there.”
Here are two of my favorite pieces shared today. The first is a sweet piece by one of my most reticent writers, but I was struck by its quaint and powerful simplicity. The second is a luscious piece that was inspired by our read aloud Out of My Mind… and the student said, “I was just sitting at home and started thinking about the power of words.”
I think both are perfect examples of why our “homework” is simply… write! Brilliant. Easy. Meaningful.
What’s Lying on my Heart by Josh (2-28-12)
Angela, my other mom, brought home a new dog. She is black and white. She is a border collie and her eyes are brown. She has soft fur and her name is Samantha. She is soft and loving and gets along well with the other dogs. She is calm and she is shy and she is happy.
Quickwrite (10 minutes) – Words by Brooklyn (2-28-12)
Words. Words flow onto paper like jelly flows on to bread. Words are part of a sentence as clouds are part of the summer sky. Words. They make sentences. Sentences make paragraphs. Paragraphs make stories. Stories make books. Books bring joy and entertainment. Books bring joy and entertainment and awe to everyone. For everyone to share with everyone else. Words. Words create endurance, courage, imagination, and wonder. Words intrigue you, words can depress you, but words can definitely do anything. Words. Words bring empowerment.