I’m a big advocate for writers to find a space that works best for them. I also think it’s important for students to learn to write anywhere. I’m productive as a writer because I have very few needs when it comes to environment. I can write anywhere. I prefer a large block of time with my computer balanced on my knees, kicked back in the recliner of my couch with a mug of something warm or a glass of ice water within reach. However, these are not needs.
Too many people never put words on the page because they have themselves convinced they need a specific environment.
It’s important to help students scout out the environment, chose their best place to work and then block out all of the distractions. When I’m writing at an airport, I scan the gate area and chose the best place to do my work. In an airport, none of the places are ideal for me to write. However, that doesn’t stop me from writing. Some of my best work has happened in airports because I’ve learned to work through distractions.
One thing I have learned to do is to settle in and focus. This is crucial for all writers — especially the writers in our classrooms. I think sometimes teachers have students stay in their seats during writing time because we believe it is easier for students to settle in and focus when they are at their desks.
I’ve found the opposite is true. By talking with students during a minilesson about the importance of finding a place to settle in and focus, and then giving them an opportunity to scan the classroom and pinpoint some of the places they think it would be possible to work effectively as a writer, we are able to foster important thinking about getting writing work done. There may be places in the classroom that are off limits to writers; this is fine. The important thing is we give them choices to find a place that will help them focus and work well.
When students scatter throughout the classroom, they often become more effective writers because they have their own space. It is also important to note, I encourage students to find their writing spaces immediately upon leaving the minilesson and then to stay there until sharing. (Naturally they can get up to meet their needs — to get more paper, grab some sticky notes for revision, or to have a peer conference — but for the most part they stick to their space.) I love to use music as a tool for getting to spaces efficiently and then as a means to help writers settle into their work. Sometimes soft music is a great way to focus and get down to business.
Yesterday, in kindergarten, I helped smooth out the procedure of finding a spot and focusing on their writing during work time. I’ve often wondered if I would curl up in a closet, away from the rest of the world if my writing time would be more efficient. (But I’ve decided I won’t have those small voices of “Mom” this and “Mom” that forever. So instead I chose to write in the middle of train tracks and duct tape crafts with paper airplanes flying over me.)
Happy writing — in whatever space is available to you!
Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.