Our first grade students have been writing Slice of Life Stories all year. They display their stories on the bulletin board outside their classroom.
These pieces are not perfect. I don’t know, maybe they are not even “good.” There are many grammar, spelling, punctuation, and convention issues. Yet, every time I walk past this bulletin board, I smile. These kids have something to say!
This past weekend, Donalyn Miller (author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild) wrote a blog post about what it means to be a writer, to call yourself a writer. (Click here to read the post.) She included this list:
If you write, you are a writer.
If you don’t write, you are not a writer.
If you want to be a writer, you must write.
The only writers who struggle with writing are ALL of them.
Write about what matters to you and make the rest of us care about it.
Anyone who tells you she’s a writer must believe it herself before she can admit it to you.
Donalyn’s list was running through my mind as I stood in the hallway reading the first graders’ Slice of Life Stories. They are writers because they write. They write about what matters to them. They hang their work proudly in the hallway because they believe they are writers. It took Donalyn Miller (and myself) many decades of life to figure out these important lessons. These writers are learning these same lessons at the age of six.
Please don’t get me wrong, the lessons in conventions and spelling and grammar and punctuation are important, too. Equally as important though (or perhaps even more so?) are the lessons in having confidence and taking risks and developing the habit of writing. I cannot imagine how different my own life would have turned out if my first grade teacher had encouraged me to write Slice of Life Stories and to share them with others. Honestly. It would have changed the course of my life forever.
I hope these young writers take this message to heart and carry it with them always and forever. They are writers because they write. They have something to say.