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How do we spend the limited time we are given to teach our writers?

By Lynne R. Dorfman

The world is changing so quickly, and kids are changing, too!  Everywhere, kids walk with iPhones and iPads in hand. Neighborhoods are quiet outside – no jump rope rhymes crying out into the air, no kickball games, no hula hoops twirling, games of hide-‘n-seek,  or pogo sticks bouncing up and down.  We all worry that perhaps technology has lured our children away like the Pied Piper – to some place that is not visible to us – where our children have been captured by the magic of the screen and all its imagination.  But what about the imagination of our children?   Are they losing the ability to imagine and create something brand new?

We want our students to be independent and empowered readers, writers, and thinkers. We want them to be able to listen keenly, revise their thinking, take risks and try new strategies and new avenues.  How can we do this? We know our kids aren’t reading and writing enough. Some years ago, at Millersville University’s Summer Institute, I heard Lester Laminack caution us that we are dangerously close to losing the imagination of our children.  Listening closely to our students’ needs and figuring out ways to respond to those needs through the work we do in our classrooms is crucial. We must bring joy and passion into our classrooms. Fletcher’s newest book, Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing, talks about how we can do this within our writing workshops. Writing helps students imagine and create something new, experimenting with forms and genres.

When we ask teachers what is their biggest obstacle in teaching writing, they often say “Time!”  Indeed, the time to fit everything in and do a good job with writing workshop is our greatest challenge.  There is no way to remove this obstacle from our daily challenges, so we must, as Rudyard Kipling tells us in his poem “If”,  fill the “unforgiving minutes with sixty second worth of distance run…”  Perhaps the best way to do this is to begin with a set of questions we can ask ourselves as teachers of writers: Read more