When I was a younger, I used to love writing. I would sometimes just write stories for fun when I was bored at home. In elementary school, we were rarely provided time to write, but when we were, I would craft magical stories of fantasy and action. Possibly due to my numerous hours of practice when I was younger, I became quite a fine writer and minored in it in college. To this day, I find great joy and comfort in creating new pieces of writing. Writing to me is more than just typing letters on a keyboard or pressing a pencil against a piece of paper. Writing is an art. It’s about playing and experimenting with word combinations: What words working together conjure up just the right image or emotion. Writing is so much more than just something I do to be done with. Even in school, I rarely finished stories I started as I never wanted to be done with the journey or writing process. When I write, I can escape into new and uncharted worlds or ponder ideas no one else has ever thought of. Sometimes when I write, I find myself lost in the act. I get so caught up in writing that time flies by. That’s the writing flow. When I’m in my writing flow, nothing else matters. I just write. It’s a pretty amazing experience.
As a teacher, I want to try and inspire my students to find their writing flow. I want them to be so engaged with the process of writing that they lose track of time. I want my students to fall in love with the words they type. I want writing to feel like fun time for my students. To help foster this love of writing within my students, I use the Writer’s Workshop model of writing instruction. Today’s Writer’s Workshop block went like this…
- I completed a mini-lesson with the students on historical fiction. I posed several questions to the class in order to generate a discussion around the following questions: What is historical fiction? and What makes a good historical fiction story? I want my students to think of the writing process as a recipe. Begin with a fact or historical knowledge nugget and then add in some realistic characters, a dash of a historically accurate setting, and a pinch of an overall sense of reality based on a happening in history.
- After I was sure they understood the ingredients of a well made historical fiction story, I explained the process that they would go through to transform their homework writing piece into a historical fiction story. “You need to revise or change what you wrote last night about something you learned regarding the history of Canaan from Wednesday’s field experience and transform it into a historical fiction story.”
- With that, the students got right to work. While a few students had clarifying questions and needed a little support to get started, most of the boys jumped right into their historical fiction story with ease. They almost seemed excited to get started.
- As I fielded questions, I also observed the students as they worked. I read sentences they had written and praised the students for their fine focus and effort. I even asked one student to reread his first sentence and decide if he thought it was interesting or provided enough of a hook to draw readers into his story. Even though he had written it, he didn’t like it and found a more creative way to begin his story.
- Many of the students were so enthralled in their story that they didn’t even notice I was walking around and observing them as they worked. I had some soft instrumental music playing as a way to keep the boys mindful and focused on the task at hand. Several of the students seemed to be in the writing flow. When I asked them to finish up the sentence they were working on, very few of them wanted to stop.
- I wrapped up today’s Writer’s Workshop block with some questions and a brief share. “How many of you are in love with your story?” Many hands shot right up into the air, as I had predicted would happen. “How many of you felt like you were in the writing flow, as Mr. Wilkerson mentioned in yesterday’s Chapel Talk?” Five or six hands went right up. The boys thoroughly enjoyed crafting new stories of Cannan’s involvement in the Underground Railroad, how the town was founded, and Noyes Academy. They just couldn’t get enough. Then I had three students share aloud a few sentences from their piece. Wow! was just about all I could say. They had crafted masterpieces of intense scenes and action. They seemed to take today’s task seriously and really dove headfirst into their historical fiction stories. I was amazed.
So, how did this happen? Why were my students so engaged in the writing process? What allowed them to enter the writing flow? Was it my introduction or explanation of the assignment? Were they excited to craft action-packed stories about Canaan’s rich history? Or was it that they take their academics seriously and just wanted to be sure they put forth their best effort? Was that it? Did their great effort help today’s writing period go so well? Almost every student had at least a half-page of text by the end of the 20 minute period. Was it the subject matter? Were they so engaged with what they learned from Wednesday’s field experience that they were inspired to craft lyrical works of art in class today? Perhaps it was a little bit of everything all rolled into one. Maybe some of the students were enthralled with the history of the town while others were motivated by grades to work well. I do feel though that flow events don’t happen accidentally. I believe that something else was at work in the classroom to cause such brilliant writing to happen. Something magical and special must have occurred to allow so many of the students to fall into the writing flow within minutes of beginning the writing process. Maybe that’s what it was. Well, no matter what happened today, I was impressed and amazed by the work my students completed. They worked like published authors. I just hope I can inspire this same kind of magic during our next writing period on Tuesday.