Blogstitute Week 2: Celebrating Writers — Including You!

July 18th, 2011

We continue our Summer Writing Blogstitute with an entry by Ruth Ayres, coauthor of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice. If you ever found yourself wondering why on earth you write when it’s just so hard, this post will help you — and your students — push through those difficult times.

The next installment in our Blogstitute will appear next Monday, July 25. Kate Messner will talk about how to teach students to critique writing. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win a package of five writing books at the end of the Blogstitute. You can also order this great package of resources at a special discounted price!

Celebrating Writers — Including YOU!

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.

—Oprah Winfrey

The more I write, the more I realize the importance of celebrating the steps of the journey. Writing is challenging, and often I want to walk away from the hard work of putting words on a page. I know our students feel the same way. They get up to sharpen their pencils, drink some water, and visit the supply center eight times in ten minutes. When the challenging work of writing becomes overwhelming, we find reasons to avoid the sweat.

Which makes me wonder, Why do I keep at it on the really tough days? And then, How can I help students to keep writing on the really tough days? It comes down to remembering the days when writing is rewarding. The days when the words flow and I write several pages of a draft. The times when I rewrite an ending and love it. The joy when someone tells me my words impacted them. I write because I’m addicted to the rush of my words going out into the world and making a difference in other people’s lives.

The small steps on the journey make the final step of publication possible for a writer. If we don’t celebrate the small steps often, we run out of stamina to make it to the final step. Here are some ways to celebrate the journey writers take in writing workshop:

  • Open Share Time: At the end of writing workshop, invite students to share the things they are feeling good about as writers. Leave the invitation wide open by asking, “What is working well for you as a writer today?” They may share a cover to their most recent book, a revised lead, or the way they edited for capitalization.
  • Process Groups: About a year ago I joined a writing group. Each month I meet with four other writers and we listen, encourage, and give feedback. More than anything else, though, we celebrate our writing lives. The e-mails between meetings are regular and usually based on celebrating the small steps we are taking as writers. This makes me realize the importance of honoring the process. By dividing students into small groups and inviting them to talk about the process of writing, they are given this same opportunity. To help this succeed, consider modeling the kind of talk you expect. Share with them your recent writing. Then listen as students talk about their writing work, and offer specific feedback and encouragement. As students begin listening and talking in their small groups, be vigilant in listening to the tone of their conversations. A positive tone should be used to celebrate individual writing processes.
  • Before and After: When I look at my writing from long ago and compare it to my writing today, I’m pleased with my improvement. Sometimes I don’t even have to wait for time to pass to feel proud of the improvement. When I revise a scene to make the dialogue more realistic or when I craft the language in an essay to make it read more smoothly, I feel good when I look at the initial draft and the revised version. Providing opportunities for students to look at their before-and-after work and reflect on their growth is another way to celebrate their writing lives. I like to encourage students to write their realizations on fancy paper or a cutout and then post their reflections on a bulletin board so others can celebrate their writing journeys too.

Celebration is about so much more than a final copy of a piece of writing. Celebrating the small steps on the road to being a writer gives us the energy to keep writing, even on the tough days. As you celebrate your writing life alongside your students, may you be pleasantly surprised to find more and more motivation to put words on the page.

Entry Filed under: Writing

33 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Linda Baie  |  July 18th, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Your ideas for acknowledging the steps along the way are so inviting. I know that they will give students a chance to celebrate with each other, too, and that community of writers gives a boost individually. I like especially that idea at the end about posting their realizations of growth on special paper and then creating a bulletin board for them. Sharing ideas helps too!

  • 2. Tammy  |  July 18th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Love the idea of process groups for my students! Helping students realize the power they have within them to improve as writers and then helping their peers is priceless.

  • 3. Tracy  |  July 18th, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I really like the idea of an open share time. “What worked for you today?” is a great focus question to guide the sharing. I’m thinking alternating this open share with sharing student work may help keep kids focused during these share times. Process groups make sense; definitely an idea worth trying. Do you find when you share your own writing, some kids get discouraged because they feel they are not where you are in the process? How do you handle that?

  • 4. Michelle  |  July 18th, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Wow! Simple, yet so effective. I can’t believe I never thought of that! When we think about celebrating writing, we usually think about that “final” copy. I love the idea of celebrating along the way, all those small steps we take, whether a piece even makes it to the final draft. So smart! That’s all the motivation writers need to continue their hard work.

    Thank you for these great ideas! Looking forward to your *new* book about celebrating writing!

  • 5. Melanie  |  July 18th, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    I love the idea for having process groups in the classroom. I’m looking forward to implementing that this year. I always have the students reflect on their growth as a writer, but I love your idea of having them post the reflections on a bulletin board. Thank you for sharing these ideas!

  • 6. Mrs. V  |  July 18th, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I enjoyed this emphasis on sharing the small steps. I especially loved the discussion prompt, “What’s working well for you as a writer today?”

  • 7. Brett  |  July 19th, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I ‘ve hit a stretch of tough days, today. When I lose my words I the frustration of quitting and not pushing through the draught is punishing. The strength of sharing in a group has often helped me. I like the term, process groups for students to build trust and confidence for sharing their writing.

  • 8. Melanie Reaves  |  July 20th, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Having gone back to school for a PhD, I’ve had my share of “rough spots!” I’m only taking one class this summer and only have one paper to write and this has been the worst rough spot ever! I finally hit a “sweet spot” yesterday and didn’t want to stop. I’m going to be teaching literacy methods for pre-service teachers in the fall and plan to use a workshop approach in our course. This is a great illustration of how I can use my own process with them. Thanks!

  • 9. Deb Day  |  July 20th, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Great ideas, Ruth. Celebrating often is something I want to try this year. Celebrating seems to be one of those things that gets left out when it comes to crunch time, and it is probably the most important!

  • 10. lottasmiles  |  July 20th, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Thank you for reminding and reassuring that the tough days will pass and to celebrate the process. I have my first graders share their writing (which encouraged those non-writers to write, they wanted to share) but haven’t asked a specific question. Your prompt will be a great way for all of my students to hopefully process their thinking about writing.

  • 11. Tam  |  July 20th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Not enough can be said about Process Groups. I know I would not be taking my writing seriously if I didn’t have our writing group. Those small comments become big when I’m writing. Those small questions of “What will your character do next?” really say to me “Keep writing.” “I’ve always liked to write, but it doesn’t come easy for me” is what I’ve always said to other people, but I’ve come to realize real writers don’t write books in one sitting!!!

  • 12. Terry  |  July 20th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    You are so right! I am a runner. When I am training for a race I celebrate my work along the way. I celebrate when I run up a hill I struggled to get up before. I celebrate when my pace is a few seconds shorter than I wanted it to be. I celebrate my long training runs because they are really hard. You are absolutely right, we need to celebrate our students writing along the way, especially when they push through the really hard parts, and not just when it is published. Thank you!

  • 13. Mary  |  July 20th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    You are a real teacher, “visiting the supply center eight times!” I can see it now!
    Noticing how difficult wriitng is for so many children, stopping during the process to notice the positives is very important. Thank you.

  • 14. Elizabeth G  |  July 20th, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    When I think of writing celebrations, I think about the final hurrah in a unit. I love the thought of celebrating growth along the way…and maybe even those small hurdles we jump on non-inspired days. I also love the idea of process groups…giving the children opportunities to talk, share, and discuss like real writers do. Brilliant!

  • 15. Ruth  |  July 21st, 2011 at 5:42 am

    This post really makes me think more deliberately about celebrating writing. I think that your thinking helps guide us to consider not only celebrating in different ways, but for different purposes. Thank you for giving us all a nudge!

  • 16. Ann C  |  July 21st, 2011 at 6:58 am

    These are things I know…but don’t do nearly enough. The idea of process groups is huge, Ruth. I’ve used them off and on and seen such amazing results. Then I let all the “other” stuff take precedence. Your post reminds me that my kids will do better on testing when they have confidence and that confidence will come from celebrating and powering through the hard days. Thank you!

  • 17. Tara  |  July 21st, 2011 at 7:46 am

    “Celebrating the small steps on the road to being a writer gives us the energy to keep writing..” – so true. Celebrating the effort that goes into writing, even in small quick ways on a daily basis, is such an important part of being in a writing community – in a classroom or out. I’m looking forward to reading your book on this subject!

  • 18. Carol Wilcox  |  July 21st, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Ruth,
    Some really great ideas. I especially love the Before and After ideas. And also your comments about celebrating being more than just honoring the final product. I’m going to be teaching fourth grade this year and will definitely be using many of your ideas.

    And can I just say that your commitment to writing, as a full time teacher, and full time mom, totally amazes me! I wish I was writing every day but I don’t seem to make it happen!

  • 19. Julie  |  July 21st, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    This was incredibly inspiring! I love the open share time and hope to implement it in my classroom this school year. I think it will really help my students keep going in the slow times. Thanks for sharing!

  • 20. Jill Fisch  |  July 21st, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Ruth,

    Writing is so often one big “rough spot” for me. I love your idea of celebrating the small steps along the way. That works for so many things but sometimes we just need to be reminded to actually do it.

    Thanks,
    Jill

  • 21. Jennifer  |  July 22nd, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Thank you for reminding us to celebrate…for me, this is a step that is often ignored in the rush of preparing students for final assessments. I also forget how important it is for me to share my writing with students; share my revision processes so students understnand that teachers have to edit and revise as well. During the school year, it is my goal to share the entire writing process with my students – from brainstorming to celebration!

  • 22. kipp  |  July 23rd, 2011 at 6:21 am

    I’ve made a specific effort to work on celebrating at the end of a piece of writing, but you’ve given me a lot to consider on celebrating along the way.
    Thank you!

  • 23. Terri Weissbach  |  July 23rd, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I agree strongly with the importance of sharing and celebrating during the process of writing. Writing is everything about the processs! Young writers, especially struggling ones, seem more apt to keep going towards a realistic completion when they’ve heard classmate’s positive input. New ideas are born from realizing and admiring other writer’s styles.

  • 24. Niki  |  July 23rd, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Your comments about celebrating writing made me turn to a page in Day by Day where it mentions the gallery walk celebration. What a great idea, both for finished writing and for writing in progress that students might need help with. Celebration and sharing of student writing is so important, but often gets left out due to time constraints. I vow to make them an important part of my writing program this year.

  • 25. heather  |  July 23rd, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Great ideas (and reminders) for celebrating along the way. I’ve been thinking about writing groups – and like your suggestion for modeling them to kick them off. I think modeling throughout the year will be beneficial, too.

  • 26. MaryHelen  |  July 24th, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Celebrating the small steps – this is so powerful for our students. Just like I appreciate feedback, my students become revived when they receive feedback from their peers. I love the idea of small group sharing. Thanks for your ideas.

  • 27. Elisa Waingort  |  July 24th, 2011 at 7:34 am

    This idea of celebrating the small moments often rather than only the big moments of a student’s writing life is so important. It speaks to the idea that if we can recognize successes then we can replicate them because as they say – success begets success. Sometimes we forget this and look for the magnum opus which may never happen and may not be that important anyway.

  • 28. Julie  |  July 24th, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I really like the idea of celebrating writing in my classroom. I think that as you run out of time in your day the sharing/celebrating writing is one of the first things that goes. When I read this it made me look back at my own students writing and seeing how celebrating the small moments does help get through the rough spots and helps students to reflect on their own writing and be excited about the next step in the process.

  • 29. Ruth Ayres  |  July 24th, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you for the kind comments and for sharing your plans to celebrate. I can’t wait to hear more as the school year opens and provides many opportunities for us to celebrate.

    @Tracy: Your question about sharing my own writing with students and whether it discourages them made me pause and think. I’ve shared my writing with students from kindergarten to high school and I’ve never noticed that sharing my own writing discourages students. I tend to be hyper aware of students’ energy level for writing after I’ve talked with them (either in a minilesson or a conference). I use my writing to help students get an inside view of my process and like most writers, my writing is messy throughout the process. I focus on sharing my writing to help students understand how writers work, not as an expectation for what kind of final product they should produce. I also don’t “water down” my work, but I show them why and how I do things as a writer. As long as this is the reason for sharing our writing (as opposed to standing in the limelight saying “Look what a great writer I am”), I think it would be difficult to discourage the writers in our classrooms.

  • 30. Diane Taboada  |  July 25th, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I appreciate your insight into your own writing process! Can you talk more about how you set up your own group of support, and how that helps you with student writing? Thanks, Diane

  • 31. Virginia  |  July 25th, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve been an educator for twenty-two years, but am returning to the classroom this year after 3 years working in district administration. I’m really excited about my return to REAL work with kids, and have been reading everything I can get my hands on in preparation for kicking off my reading and writing workshops. Your ideas come at a perfect time… was just reading something by Katie Wood Ray regarding sharing writing, and your ideas are great additions.

    I’ve been lucky to work in a writing workshop-type collaboration three different times in my career. Reading this makes me want to either form or join a Writing Group for my own writing!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • 32. Kelly Mogk  |  July 25th, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I love what you said about the Before & Afrer. I shared my kids first writing of the year with them at the end of this school year and they were amazed at how much they had grown! it led to some great conversations!!

  • 33. KimberlyGutierrez  |  July 29th, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Two comments:
    1. You should check out the book, “The Wednesday Sisters.” Its a novel about a group of friends who meet in the park each week for a book club that turns into a writing club. It is a great feel good read.

    2. This year my main thought has been to slow down. Take more time to see the clouds above my classroom and reflect about what we have done and how we did it. We cram SO much into our days with the kids, that we miss the opportunity to celebrate it or even enjoy what we have accomplished. I was planning to really focus on reflection after lessons this year. I think slowing down and taking the time for that will allow the kids to build a language base to discuss what they have done, how they did it, and where they will go next. I think it will also build our community and create a trusting environment. This will be more than closing circle at the end of the week, this will be a daily if not hourly idea.

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