Skip to content


This quote from Penny’s book spoke to me today:

“Writers don’t need to be given formulas; they need to be shown possibilities.”    — Barry Lane

I’ve been thinking about this.  So often, in the name of modeling, I think we give students a formula for writing as opposed to showing them possibilities.  It’s a fine line between showing possibilities and insisting on a formula.  Here is some of my initial thinking on the ways we can ensure we are offering possibilities to our writers.

  1. Follow Penny Kittle’s advice and “Write Beside Them,” while at the same time share the process and choices we are making as writers.  I must be vigilant in writing myself.
  2. Recognize that just because a structure works for us, doesn’t mean it’s the only way.  There are unlimited possibilities for the way a story could be written.  I need to be intentional about opening these doors for my students (and myself).
  3. Ask students to Just give it a whirl and see if it works.  Encourage them to abandon any strategies that aren’t working for them as a writer.  I need to be sensitive to each individual.

I believe this is a state of mind when it comes to teaching young writers.  It’s about letting go of what we think is right when it comes to writing and embracing the process that each individual writer is forging.  It’s about observing what works not just for ourselves, but for the young writers in the classroom and then encouraging others in the classroom to try the same things.  It’s about being open and honest about our successes and frustrations as writers with our students.

Maybe that’s the key — being writers ourselves and open to the unexpected twists and turns the writing can take us; thus creating the kind of atmosphere our students need to do the same thing.

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

3 thoughts on “Possibilities. Leave a comment

  1. “Students must learn that what is expressed is paramount, that the how of their expression is crucial (their diction and syntax), and that conforming to conventions is important only after they have expressed something worth editing.”

    This quote comes from an article called “The Struggle Itself: Teaching Writing as We Know We Should,” by P.L. Thomas. (The English Journal, Vol. 90, No. 1, Teaching Writing in the Twenty-First Century (Sep., 2000). Published by the National Council of Teachers of English).

    It’s an interesting article. if I remember correctly, it’s about writing as a chaotic process that is impossible to streamline. It argues against many current conventions of teaching the proccess of writing (prewriting, drafting, etc.). People just don’t write like that. It also argues that revision isn’t stressed enough.

    Have you ever seen Sondra Perl’s Composing Guidelines? Here’s a post on my blog with links and things:

    She talks about the “felt sense.” It’s pretty interesting.


  2. … I am so thankful for this blog!!! It’s like you hear what ‘s happening in my own classroom! I check in daily, often a few times during the day; you’re offering such practical, useful advice. You’ve been more valuable to me than many staff development sessions I’ve been tortured with.

    First, I love to write and teach writing. My awesome bilingual kids (a mix of newcomers and kids who have been here under 2 yrs) pose many instructional challenges, and yet they’re doing quite well with the process, specifically peer conferencing. I was AMAZED today at the conversations I was overhearing. Also, I was able to confer with a few of them this morning, and I was so psyched at the truly authentic story-telling. One story made me tear up, another made me laugh…

    If only all I had to do was teach writing…


%d bloggers like this: