I think that probably the most
hated heard phrase from writers (kids and adults alike) is “I don’t have anything to write about!”
Yep, I have heard it countless times, and maybe I’ve even said it before. But that was a long time ago. It was at the very beginning of my writing journey when I thought that everything I wrote about had to be a big deal. A monumental story that would blow everyone’s minds. Or that it had to be made up–a fabulous fiction story that would be a bestseller if I just finished it.
Then I actually learned about how a Writer’s Notebook works and how what real writers do is not try to collect the most amazing things ever, but that they learn to look at the world differently so that EVERYTHING is interesting. They see the normal, ordinary things of life in a new way and begin to find things to write about in their everyday lives.
And so that is my goal as I interact and teach writers in Rm. 202–regardless of what grade they are in. Writers are people who collect their ideas and thoughts for later, and often times mine those ideas for a diamond in the rough that the can polish into a shiny piece of writing to share with someone else.
Ok…in 2nd grade we talked about another essential question on which we will chew and return to over and over:
I mean really, in many ways, this is the key to unlocking the writing mystery. It’s the way that we get past the “I can’t” and see towards the “Maybe I can…” So we’ve been working hard to learning about and then trying out many ways that writers get ideas for their writing. And I’m super happy that many of my own entries have been the mentor texts we’ve been using for examples.
While there are TONS of answers to this question, I’ve narrowed it down (along with the help of some very smart teacher mentors like Ralph Fletcher who know way more than me) to a list of things that a) 2nd graders can do and b) can be used over and over. Remember: these are strategies, not prompts. I’m telling kiddos WHAT to say, but instead helping them think about HOW to say it or the STRUCTURE it could take. The topic is whatever they wish. Nice!
We’ve been working with this list (and again, please excuse the “ugliness” of the draft!):
- Meaningful Objects: Writers get ideas from OBJECTS that are important to them, often which are also linked to a strong memory of a person, a place, an event, etc.
I shared this image with the class and then my thoughts about it:
Check out some of our writing:
2. Memories: The best part of memories is that anything that is from the past that you want to remember technically counts here! A memory can be something from today, or something from years ago! Recent or ancient, they are worth saving for the future. This was one where I linked kiddos into the “What do you want to remember when you go off to college?” question. It seemed to help them understand the importance of how they’d be using their notebooks to save things.
3. Artifacts: Ok, so technically, meaningful objects, memories and artifacts are all related to each otehr, but I taught them as 3 separate ways to write because they can also be used individually of each other. Often you’ll find that an artifact IS a meaningful object that reminds you of a memory. Triple win! And again, like with most of these ideas, there are multiple ways to interpret an “artifact:” a photo, a ticket stub, a card, a candy wrapper, a flower petal (yep, I have those in my notebook!), a hair bow (a 2nd grade friend put one of those in her tiny notebook!), ANYTHING that makes you think of something else. 🙂
Here are some examples of artifacts we’ve been saving:
To go right to part 2 of this story, click here. 🙂