Fridays are Free Write Fridays in my room, unless students are working on a high-stakes piece of writing that's due soon. Regardless of the type of writing, this year I've made Fridays sacred for writing in my classroom. I don't think it's something I'll ever go away from.
Free write Fridays were born from two separate ideas:
1. Kids need more informal practice writing, so I wanted them to turn in one piece of writing each week. Any topic, any genre, as long as they show variety on both and use it to try new things. These writings are graded on completion only. I also have to respond to every weekly writing and have those back to students by the beginning of the next week.
2. If writing is important (which it is), then these writings shouldn't be homework. I show how important these are by giving students the time within class to complete them each week.
Sometimes I take over FWF and give a mini lesson on a new genre or skill, and then students use their writing time to try to put it to work. When a trimester final is due, Fridays are time to work on that and their weekly writing is suspended until the major assignments are due. Yesterday was the first day back to completely "free" Friday for my 7th graders after weeks of Tri 2 writing. They were ready for it. So was I.
As a writing teacher, one of the most important things you can do is write with your students. Not just display examples; write with them in real time. I've read this in pretty much every text on writing I've ever encountered, and yet I'm amazed at how little it happens in schools. Why? I think because writing makes you vulnerable, and most teachers are scared of showing students that vulnerability. It's easier to judge and tell students what they're doing wrong (or right) as writers then to show yourself struggling through the process.
I don't always have time to write with my students, but on Free Write Fridays, I try. I type on my iPad in Google Docs since it's the exact same tool they have to use. I display it on AirPlay on the screen in front of the room. I do not plan my topics ahead of time so they can see my thinking process of deciding on what I want to write about. I write about a new topic in each class period so no group is short-changed (and so that I'm not a fraud). Sometimes these writings suck, and I tell students I'm not satisfied with them. Sometimes they're the beginning of something I'll come back to later. But the most important part is that my students see me as a writer. For every teacher who gets riled about about the phrase Those who can't do, teach, consider this: when was the last time you did what you teach in front of your students? Do they know you can? Do they know your skill and not just your knowledge? If so, what are you going to do about it?
These are the links to my writings from yesterday, in case you're interested. I also love the opportunity for relationships that come from writing with students. When they get stuck, they stop and read what I'm typing up on the screen and giggle or look back at me or realize that maybe we have something in common. They get to know me better as a person, and I get to show them that I'm probably more like them in some ways. It also allows them to share more with me in their writings. It's give and take. These are also unedited. Weekly writings aren't about perfection, they're about practice, so I hold myself to the same standards.
Letter to Google
In which I write a fake letter to Google complaining about some of my pet peeves with their Apps for Education features. (No offense, Google. I use you every day, but there are some bones to pick with your iPad apps.) This one probably showed my strongest writing for my students since I used a blend of humor to really show my voice. I'm a morning person, so it makes sense that my best writings usually happen earlier in the day.
Me at Fifteen
This was prompted by something I saw on Twitter the other night: Would the fifteen-year-old version of you like you as a teacher? It's a fascinating thought, and this essay doesn't do it justice yet. It's something I will definitely come back to in a future blog post, but this is the rough beginning. Also, more tailored to my teenage audience than what I'd post here for a teacher/adult audience.
This one is also dissatisfying because I didn't plum the emotional depth that I want to yet. My closest coworker and friend is leaving after this school year (marriage and a move). It's a tough topic for me because it impacts so much of my life, both personally and professionally. I know I'll write about it again, so much like Period 4's writing, I'm still unsatisfied with this beginning.
So what does this show my students? Out of the three pieces I wrote, I'm only content with one. It also shows them the variety of topics I can come up with based on situations and inspiration from my everyday life. It shows them that I'm not forcing them to do things that I'm not willing to do myself. And it shows them that teachers are people who can do the things we're teaching.
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.