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The Power of Place Based Writing

A few years ago when I first heard the term Place Based Writing, I thought it was some new hokey kind of writing about flowers and trees.  Why I thought that, I have no idea, but I did.  Then when I learned what it was really all about, I realized what a fool I was for thinking that it was hokey.  Place Based Writing is not only a very real and engaging way to teach writing, but it is also a great strategy for writers facing a mental writing block.  Just look around your environment for inspiration.  What a brilliant idea.  I was hooked, but never really tried it in the classroom effectively until this year.

Today during Humanities as part of our unit on the town of Canaan, we took our students on a walking tour of the town.  Before the field trip I completed a mini-lesson with the boys on Place Based Writing.  We discussed what it’s all about and how to do it.  We even talked about the difference of writing about the place in which you are vs. writing about a place you are thinking about.  Sometimes it can be much more difficult to glean sensory details from a place you imagine.  All you need to do is look around where you are for inspiration when completing Place Based Writing.  Use what you see, hear, smell, feel, etc. as a springboard for your writing.  There is not a set writing form, just let the ideas flow onto the paper.  The students seemed to understand the purpose of Place Based Writing.  While they didn’t seem overly excited about doing it, they grasped the main ideas.

Then we ventured out into our town.  We started at the Old North Church.  After listening to a history of the Church and observing what the boys could observe, they wrote for abut 10 minutes.  Some of the students crafted a story while others created a list of what they saw.  Some of the students even wrote poetry based on their experience.  Every student wrote something.  They used the Church as inspiration.  Next week we will have the students type their piece on Google Drive, revise, and edit it before turning it in to be graded.  Their piece will be graded on how effectively the students are able to edit a piece of writing based on a mini-lesson completed earlier in the year.  

While some of the students had a blast writing inside the Church and wanted to share their piece with the class, at least everyone learned and was given the opportunity to practice a new writing strategy.  As a teacher, one of my goals is to help equip my students with as many writing and reading strategies as possible so that they will find much success in their future literacy endeavors.  Place Based Writing is one more powerful and tangible way to teach writing while also connecting it to the content of the class.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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