identities · writing workshop

The Power of Writing Timelines

My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Yung, loved teaching poetry. She hosted a school-wide writing contest, and, while I don’t remember the details of the contest, I do remember a couple of my pieces winning awards. I also remember my eighth-grade essay on The Thorn Birds that I had to re-write the morning it was due (I used to submit my final drafts in my best cursive) because my father wrote too many corrections on it during his final read as I ate breakfast. 

There are other writing experiences that appear on my writing timeline, including long droughts and times when I did not remotely identify myself as a writer. As I think about my own timeline, I’m sure there are teachers who would be surprised to know their impact, both positive and negative. 

My own personal writing timeline

Even elementary students have a writing timeline, and teachers can learn a lot by asking them about it. You can learn a lot about your own teaching and impact by asking students to do it at the end of the year, and you can also save this idea for the fall when you can ask students to teach you about themselves as writers by making a timeline. 

Here are some questions you might consider asking:

  • When have you felt proud as a writer?
  • When have you felt frustrated as a writer?
  • Inspired?
  • What are some of the pieces of writing you remember? 
  • What are some key learning events for you? Some a-ha moments in your writing life?
  • When have you written outside of the classroom?

Writing timelines are powerful windows into the writing identities of students. If you try them out, I’d love to hear about it!