I promised I was in for the latest #reflectiveteacher blog challenge, so here's my (kind of) late start. Thankfully, this doesn't require a post every day, because things have been crazy this week. All the prompts for this week lump into one category for me, so that makes it easy.
My favorite writing activity and formative assessment approach is simply free writing. Does that sound boring? Because it's not. It's the most opposite of boring that could possibly exist, and we don't give kids enough of it once they get older. For some reason, we decide that as students get into middle school, high school, and college, they must stop writing for pleasure and always have dictated writing assignments. Why? I don't know. I thought it too, for a while. I thought I wasn't teaching writing unless I was slogging seventh graders through research papers and marking eighth grade papers bloody because it was the right thing to do to prepare them for future writing assignments. It wasn't. It was just perpetuating a cycle, and contributing to why a lot of kids learn to hate writing after their elementary school days. So my favorite activity is to not do those things that make kids hate writing. My favorite activity is to just let them write. Let them love writing.
Regular free writing is good for kids, I promise. I know some English teachers might balk or think allowing kids time and freedom to write is laziness or lack of teaching on my part, but it's not. Forcing students to write within a narrow scope of assigned territories doesn't really make them think, other than thinking how they can jump through hoops to please the teacher. Giving them freedom? That's hard. They have to think for themselves. They have to create. They have to show ownership because they have the control; they can't blame it on a bad assignment. It builds their creative muscles, and their writing experience. It creates a habit of writing, which might be the one truly essential aspect of actually being a writer.
Free writing is one of my favorite things, period. It shows students that writing is important, and it helps to build their individual voices.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.