How do you make writers feel welcomed?

This time of year thoughts about creating a safe and inviting classroom fill our minds. This is one of  my favorite things to think about. Today I shifted the question slightly and began thinking about writers specifically.

How can we make writers feel welcomed?

Here are some ideas I’m tossing around. More importantly, I can’t wait to read your ideas in the comments.

  • Introduce the writing center to students and then invite them to make something. For younger writers, have a selection of premade books, for older writers, have paper that will scaffold a variety of genre choices such as: narrative, letters, poetry, graphica, or feature articles.
  • Start a writer’s notebook and encourage students to make it personal. Stacey and I have blogged about many ways to help students personalize their notebooks. Here is a link for a writers notebook search I did using the search box in the upper right corner under our header. Some of the best writing advice is: Write what you know. Give students a chance to figure out what they know.
  • Give students a chance to talk about their writing lives. Host a few whip shares (everyone sits in a circle and then whip around the circle with everyone giving a short answer) that will get students talking. Some conversation starters may include: What do you like to write about? What is something you are proud of that you’ve written? Why is it important to write? What is the last thing you wrote?
As I’m listing ideas there is a little voice pricking in the back of my mind saying something like, It doesn’t matter what you do to make writers feel welcome what matters is your response. In order to make writers feel welcomed and get excited about being a writer we must respond to their work in ways which say, “You are okay just as you are.”
Asking students to share their writing with us is asking them to be vulnerable. The first time they trust us to share their writing, we must honor the gift they are giving us. Our response ought to be one that makes them know they are valuable and realize they can trust us. Remember we have the entire school year to teach them and help them grow as writers, but only one first chance to to let them know they can trust us with their writing.