For the month of March, some colleagues and I started a Rising Writers Club. We opened it to all second and third-grade students (a few first graders sprinkled in too). It has been a breath of fresh air to bring in these forty students before school with a focus on creative writing. Typically, our extended day students focus only on Title One targeted work. We decided to shake up our extended day for the second half of the year. Instead of only inviting a small group of students per teacher, we clumped ourselves together and invited beyond those targeted students. We made a commercial and sold the idea to kids that they could join this club and write things that were outside of the box. We were thrilled when the names started rolling in and we had a mix of ages and interests.
The structure of the club split the students in half, based on their availability. Each set of twenty students attends two days in a row (Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday/Thursday) for one hour before school. All forty students attend for thirty minutes on Friday for celebrations and sharing together.
The first half of our club has focused on working all the way through the writing process and publishing a book with a soft laminated cover, colorful illustrations, and a build up of excitement when finished books were featured at our Literacy Night for March is Reading Month. The second portion of our club has been focused on poetry and blogging.
It has been so wonderful starting the day with kids who are excited about writing. Each has a little cinch bag with all their toolkit items. Watching students walk the halls with their bags on their back as they head home has made my heart happy. We encouraged students to really take the work home and dig in. Many accepted the challenge.
As we began poetry, I reminded the students that each of them is a poet. It’s just waiting inside of their heart. First I modeled how I found a sentence I liked in my notebook. Using this sentence I was able to further demonstrate lines, line breaks, and stanzas. The time is quite limited, so it feels like teaching poetry while going a hundred miles an hour. I want them to learn something quickly and get right to it so there is success. We don’t have time to wait for the kids to come around so pure engagement, excitement, and a dose of encouragement is really essential. Students’ looked inside their stories. I let them know that this might be tough. However, some would find a sentence right away to break into a poem and we’d be able to use their samples as mentors. The kids were excited to create little poems from their earlier drafts.
From those examples, we pulled a word we could try to show with more description. I pulled the word “fascinated” from my poem. I mentioned that I thought it was a good word but that I also thought it was a prime candidate for further description. I had students act out the word, I acted out the word, and we generated a quick list of how we would describe exactly what the word “fascinated” looked like. I showed them that you can take one word, think about it in real life, and describe it with a quick list creating lots of options for further development.
We ask kids to think about word choice, circle words, try new things, add a detail. Sometimes we just need to bring it all to life to really see what we are thinking. I have seen a lot of life in these writers and I always feel so fulfilled after working with each of them. When writing club ends I wish it could go on all day. The smiles and energy are enriching and it’s a great way to start the day.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.