The Place for Free Writing

A teacher posted on the Natonal Writing Project (NWP) blog the following post:

Peter Elbow states in “Writing Without Teachers”, that in order to get our students to be better writers, we need to allow them to freewrite. Freewriting allows learners to flow in an unedited, silence, and not judged environment. In the ninth grade, my English teachers required us to come into class before the five minute bell and start freewriting in our journal. This was a time of 5-10 minute quietness where I expressed the songs in my head, emotions, joys, colorful explectives, and thensome. My journal was never shared (well, I don’t really remember sharing this to the class), and this was a great way to merge into our lessons. In what way your students are able to freewrite in your setting? How do you see this happening in your classroom day for this school year? What is your take on the freewriting process?

I replied:

I am concerned that in this recent drive to understand the implications of technology in the classroom that teachers will neglect to explore theanother facets of ELA.

I began teaching before social media. Before text messaging. A time when students did not see themselves as writers beyond the performance of the compulsory composition assignment.

I agree with the importance of free writing as a disciplined practice. I believe that it builds writing fluency and establishes writing habits–that we would like to see our studens envision writing as a tool of self-discovery and themselves as writers who seek knowledge of the self.

My experience with free writing is complicated. It begins the school year with the best of intentions but I find myself lacking the consistency to sustain free writing throughout the year. What are your thoughts about this? And how can I sustain the value and the motivation for my students to keep at it?

I have neglected the practice of free writing for two consecutive years now. Why? I will collect data that I believe will show students are writing. They have a digital presence creating identities via social media. Some blog.

Several years back, a teacher introduced me to the concept of students studying themselves sociologically as readers; that is, they would log any reading activity they performed over the course of a week–however mundane–and then use that log to reflect on their reading habits and strategies.

I will adapt this to writing and then evaluate the place of free writing in my classroom practice. Most likely, I will compromise and schedule time to free write once a week.

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