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In Your Own Words

Last week I set out to write a letter of commendation for five educators I’ve been working with for several months.  My time with them is coming to an end and I wanted to make sure there’s a letter in each of their folders stating how wonderful they are at what they do.  I found myself using trite expressions like “good at what she does” and “has a heart of gold” in my first draft.  Once I finished typing out the letter I knew I had to revise because I wrote with words anyone could have written.  The words needed to become my own.

I’ve heard Lucy Calkins say things like the words you write first are anybody’s words.  I cut myself some slack about my horrendous first draft and revisited the letter with fresh eyes later in the day, which helped me craft words that sounded like me.  The words I found later in the day paid tribute to these educators in a way they deserved.  The best part is that I didn’t just use anybody’s words, I found words that were precisely my own.

This holiday season, I encourage you to write a personalized note to your students or to family/friends you’re showering with presents. Tell them how much they mean to you.  Tell them what makes them special.  Tell them something to make them understand just how cherished they are in your life.  Do this by using words that are precisely your own.

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

4 thoughts on “In Your Own Words Leave a comment

  1. Another thing that drafts do is allow the creative process and the spelling/grammar level to be two separate things. This allows writers, especially beginning ones, to write what they really mean, not just what they can spell.


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