My son is a passionate writer. He often sits with me as I write and publish. He asks a million questions about my process which I always try to answer. He enjoys reading and has access to books of interest. He, along with his sisters, attended writing camp two summers ago, which they all went to enthusiastically. (My experience includes my childhood as a reluctant writer so I can’t even imagine being asked to write during the summer!)
While I understand what parts of his environment have encouraged him to consider himself a writer, and also want to pursue it as a profession, I also know that much of his writerly life is driven by passion.
His love of playing baseball and discovering the Ballpark Mysteries book series led to several stories about baseball. He discovered scary movies which led to a detailed scary story about a haunted house. When he writes at home, and when he is most successful as a writer at school is when he is allowed to indulge his passions with his pen (or computer).
I write all of this to say that there is a simple question you can pose to your students to engage them in the writing process. Normally, we begin a writing workshop session with the mini-lesson, a 5-10 minute direct lesson about some writing point that we encourage students to include in that day’s writing. A forty minute writing lesson (if we are lucky) often asks students to wait 15-20 minutes before they can actually begin writing. And to top it off, we often provide a number of topics that students must choose to write about.
Instead, start your writing session with this easy question:
What are you excited to write about today?
Ask the question and get out of the way. Provide support. Model what you are excited to write about. Help students who struggle to get started. Answer all of their questions. But most importantly, let kids write about their passions.
You will get more out of your writers. You will find that students in your class consider themselves writers in the first place. When given the chance to write consistently about what they want to, you will find more engaged writers.
Start tomorrow with the question and watch as students turn into writers.