growth mindset · writing workshop

Three Words for Fostering Adventurous Writers: “Just Try It.”


At our house we have a rule at dinner time: You have to try everything on your plate.

Personally, I think it’s a great rule, if I do say so myself. It’s a useful rule. It covers many situations:

The “I’m all done” situation:

“Mommy, I’m done!”

“You have to try everything. That’s the rule. We always try everything.”

“Okay,” Lily says with a humph. She takes a bite of her green beans.

The “I don’t want to/I need to” situation:

“I don’t need to eat my sandwich. I’m not hungry.”

“That’s okay, but we always try everything.”

“Fine.” She takes a bite, changes her mind, and before she knows it, half of her sandwich has been devoured.

The “I don’t like it” situation:

“Lily, you didn’t try your chicken yet.”

“I don’t like it.”

“We always try everything. At least one bite!”

She takes a bite. Loves it.

In the same way that kids can become either very picky or very adventurous eaters, kids can also become picky or adventurous writers. Picky writers are kids who are more interested in falling back on things that are familiar than in trying something new. They might bristle when given suggestions or feedback, preferring to keep their writing as is. You confer with them, or give them something to try, only to find a few minutes later that they’ve ignored your suggestions, and gone back to their old ways. They are finicky. They’re not necessarily always reluctant writers–the kids I have in mind often love to write. They’re just… picky, about when and how and if they’ll try anything new. Today I demonstrated writing workshop in three different grades, and I kept finding myself saying the same thing that I say at dinner to my daughter: “We always try everything!”

This was me in Kindergarten today:

Kid: “I don’t know what to write about.”

Me: “You had a great idea earlier. Start with that!”

Kid: “Meh. I don’t know.”

Me: “Try it! If you don’t like it, you can always stop and switch to something different! Just give it a try!”

This was me in First Grade:

Kid: “I don’t want to make a table of contents first. I want to write my book first, then write the table of contents after.”

Me: “No problem! I’m that way too. But just try it. Try it out. After you try it, if you don’t like it, go ahead and try it the other way too.

Kid: “Oh, okay, fine. I’ll try it.”

This was me in Second Grade:

Kid: “I want to just keep writing. I don’t want to stop to be in a group.”

Me: “I know. It’s hard to stop. Just come with me and give it a try. We always at try new things in writing workshop.”

The phrase, “Just try it,” gives kids permission to go ahead and do something unfamiliar, and to take a small risk. It communicates the message that in writing workshop we try things –nothing has to be permanent. We can take it right back out of our writing, we can start over, we can try it another way if the first try doesn’t work out. More often than not, kids will see the value in the new strategy if they give it a try… just like picky eaters often will realize that those new and unfamiliar foods are actually pretty tasty.

6 thoughts on “Three Words for Fostering Adventurous Writers: “Just Try It.”

  1. One of the greatesf successes I have had with my 7th grade ILA students in trying new approaches in their writing is modeling it myself. And I don’t mean a pretend model for the purpuse if an example, but I mean a full length, completed piece if writing. Hence the reason for my personal blog. Secondary, even equal to this, is giving the students the freedom to try something new in their writing even if its not perfect or even close to their best work. All of my students share their writing with me and sigh each other through From day one I reinforced the idea that the only thing they needed to do with the blog assignments was to attempt to meet the requirement of the prompt in length and topic and respond to at least three other posts for that assignment. Its a completion grade and I find that they feel comfortable with the expectation that they are free to explore topics and writing techniques without the consequences of losing points if they didn’t do it exactly correct.


  2. I love the trend in the recent Two Writing Teachers posts! Little words with BIG meanings. Anna’s post on transition words complements this post as well as Stacey’s One Little Word post. I’ll be adding “Just try it” to my repertoire.


  3. I’ll be tucking those three words in my back pocket when I’m conferring with some first and third graders this week. There are a few kids in the classes I’m visiting who prefer to do their own thing.

    Oh, and I’ll be busting out those words at dinner time too. Sounds better than saying “no thank you bite.”


  4. It’s so important for us to share our thinking while we construct our writing in front of the students. Modeling helps to clarify any questions they have concerning any aspect of writing. I love connecting my plan to my writing as I model to the kiddos. It seems to really help with organization and progression. At times, it can be uncomfortable, I CAN make mistakes in front of the students. When they catch the error, it takes modeling to a whole different level. I recognize, as a teacher and a writer that they are progressing as writers!


  5. This is a great reminder of the importance of modeling. As teachers, do we model enough “trying” it and reflect on the process of “trying” it with our students? Can’t wait to add more of this “trying it” with kids. Thanks for the great post!


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