Last year for our May blog series, we tackled ideas helping us look back as we moved forward. I remember reading the posts and getting really inspired to try some new things as I embarked on planning another year in third grade. Kelsey’s post really stood out to me, How to Reinvigorate Writing Workshop with Joy Through Independent Writing Projects. I tucked it aside hoping I would revisit the idea and maybe find my way.
In August we challenged our TWT readers to DREAM BIG and choose one thing to bump-up or push-in to their workshop. I remember thinking about what one thing I was going to really make a big push for in the 2018-19 school year. I was still thinking about those independent projects, and I was going to try to find a way to make time. It felt impossible.
As the year began, I decided to carve out ten minutes every day in my schedule. Ten unscheduled minutes for writing. I called it Sacred Writing, which is not necessarily a phrase I coined, but I wanted it to feel like their ten minutes. Options for this time included working on partner projects, independent writing projects, notebook writing, any style or genre of writing.
This ten minutes became something all students looked forward to. It traveled throughout our schedule. Different times of year meant the ten minutes found itself first thing in the morning, right after lunch, sometimes right before dismissal, other times smack in the middle of something else. Some days it was skipped. Some weeks we only had it twice. But, and this is a big one, most of the time, it was every day. Every single day. It helped me to realize how things that matter most can happen more often when planned more often. If I had just devoted ten minutes on Monday’s and Friday’s, there would have been a lot less sacred writing.
The ten minutes was never part of our workshop time. I wondered if I would see any kind of benefit or carryover to the workshop by giving them ten minutes of complete and total writing freedom. As I suspected, I absolutely did.
Here are just some of the benefits I saw:
- Independence within the writing process
- More independence generating ideas
- More development of an idea across days
- Physical writing stamina improved
- Partnership work became more spontaneous and more beneficial
- The community was strengthened
To be more clear, I was entirely out of the way on this. Kids shared with me what they wanted to share. There was a box in our classroom library, and I had no part in it. Students filled that box, and they all read all those books made by their peers. Were they perfect published pieces? In some ways, yes. They were absolutely perfect. They were perfect examples of wild writing. They were perfect examples of confidence. They were perfect petals from blooming authors. They are the pieces that meant more or the most to each of them. I truly believe, of anything I did all year long, this will be what my students remember from third grade, and it was all driven by their own ideas, motivation, and excitement. I just provided the time.
My writers learned a lot this year. I have a lot of evidence showing they are better writers and that many of my lessons had an impact on their ability to grow. More than anything else, I learned ten minutes can be significant. Ten minutes can have meaning carried farther than I used to think. Ten minutes can make a reluctant writer feel driven and electrified in a way I’ve never seen before. Ten possible minutes.