Is it possible for parents and teachers to make writing enjoyable and deeply engaging for kids?
Not only is it is possible but it’s one of the MOST important things we can do to improve the quality of our kids writing. When kids are joyful and deeply involved, they are more likely to initiate writing, and to put more effort into their work.
As many of you know, my job is to help teachers teach writing. I’ve always talked about and demonstrated the ways in which we can make writing more interesting and enjoyable. I’ve also recently read Ralph Fletcher’s amazing book entitled, Joy Write. (If you are a teacher or parent interested in joyful and deeply engaging writing, run to get this book!!) He talked about something he calls ‘greenbelt writing. Greenbelt writing is writing that is low stakes, playful and deeply personal. To top it off, I have a daughter who loves to write. She chooses to make books the same way she choose to build with blocks. (It probably helps to have a mom who puts joy and engagement at the forefront). All of this sparked my curiosity to have a more direct link with students as way to test my theory that joyful writing leads to stronger writing. My daughter and I decided to invite a few of her friends over for a writing club/party. A few of my ‘mom’ friends looked at me strangely when I told them my idea and wondered out loud if I would truly be able to make a writing party fun.
On the day of the big event, I gathered the kids together and showed them a few different types of books: Wordless books, books with pictures and words, story books and teaching books. I then told them they could make any kind of book they wanted and I sent them off. Simple and low stakes: ‘greenbelt writing’ at its core. One little girl looked up at me and in a shaky voice let me know that she didn’t know how to write words. I calmly told her that she could either write the words the best she could or make a wordless book. 5 minutes later, she announced that she was making a chapter book. Amazing how when the stakes are low, the kids will do more.
The kids truly had a blast!
Quite a few of the parents texted me the next day to let me know that their kids continued working on the book that they started at our writing club!
Isn’t that we want?
It’s so much easier and so much more effective if kids choose to write. It’s never fun to beg anyone to get something on the page!
I would love to hear your thoughts!!
Parents: I’m thinking of branching out and offering joyful after school writing clubs for kids. What would you want to see included? What questions do you have?
Teachers: How often do your students get to do ‘greenbelt’ writing? What do you think of in school and after school writing clubs?
Please write your comments below or email me for a more personal conversation.