Slice of Life: The Unexpected Text

(This is for Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.)

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We were just coming out a freewriting session – a quiet space where students can write whatever they want, as long as they are writing. As usual, I opened the floor up to sharing. Usually, with freewrite sharing, the collection becomes odds and ends of unfinished ideas — scraps of poems, a comic strip, a journal entry, a string of sentences that don’t necessarily make sense. My students love freewrite time because it gives them freedom but I can’t say that focus is the key ingredient for many of them.

Still, I let them go. Writers write.

So I wasn’t expecting much for sharing. Even so, I always enjoy this mini-celebration of writing in all of its messy glory because you never know when something interesting might surface. And so it did. I won’t go into deep details on the piece because of the personal nature of it, but one of my students — a solid writer, for sure, but often a surface writer, skimming along the top of the story — raised his hand to share.

What came out was a beautiful personal narrative that begins with him looking out the window at home and moved into becoming a wonderful meditation on dreams and aspirations, and hurdles, and connections to family for support. The class listened in silence as he read his piece, loud and articulate, and when he was done, he looked up and smiled. He knew he had written something powerful, and that he had shared powerful words. We knew it, too.

It was an expected text that changed my teaching demeanor for the day – one of those moments when you realize that you really are in a room of writers, even if they are just 11 years old and trying to find a voice. Here, this student found his voice, and shared it with us. It was a glorious slice of life.

Peace (in the days),
Kevin

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12 Comments
  1. Kevin, I love that you celebrate the “messy glory” of writers and writing! What a moment for that student…to read his writing and know he touched his classmates and his teacher. You provided him with the opportunity to share himself! I bet it’s a moment he will remember too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kevin, I had goosebumps when you said, “…and when he was done, he looked up and smiled. He knew he had written something powerful, and that he had shared powerful words. We knew it, too.” That moment is power — for all your students and you too! All the messy glory at it’s best! And quite an anchor moment for your class that you can remind them in the future, especially during your free writing time.

    Write on!

  3. Free writing is messy and can be unfocused and undisciplined but it has such a sense of freedom in it that risk is possible. This writer was feeling it on this day and wow what a piece he produced. If you had a regular lesson in a unit of study, the piece probably wouldn’t have happened. It’s not just the piece and how he affected you and the students, but what he knows about himself that matters. Thanks for the reminder to allow a little bit of freedom in our student’s writing lives.

  4. He looked up and smiled…How great is that? I had a similar experience yesterday, and I’m going to write about it tomorrow. Although my student is one who struggles getting his words on paper and has little confidence in himself. It was a glorious moment…and when he finished, he smiled too.

  5. Magical! I experienced the power of sharing time at my Summer Institute last June, but I haven’t worked it into my classroom as often as I’d hoped yet… your post has inspired me to try again!

  6. Setting this up with your honesty of lower expectations added to the genuineness of this piece. What a shining moment for this writer, for your classroom, and for the student listeners. Long ago I had a quiet student who had depths of words within her, and it was always such a treasure when she chose to share.

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