agency · choice · Freewriting

Freewrite Fridays: The Freedom Writers Deserve!

TGIF! Who doesn’t love a Friday? In my classroom, Fridays are extra special, because students enjoy “Freewrite Fridays,” a pause in our curriculum and current writing projects to write whatever kids want. Yes, WHATEVER they want! 

Freewrite Friday began after reflection on the many limits writers experienced in my classroom. Most of these limits are things I cannot control. I am required to teach the district-approved curriculum and meet the standards required for my grade level. Throughout the year, I lead various units of study, in which the genre (and sometimes even the topic) is chosen for kids. Predictably, writers get bored when crafting pieces within the same genre every day for a month or longer. 

Dictionary Definition for Freewrite: to write (something) without constraints on topic, genre, audience, or process.

Why do writers need regular opportunities for freedom and choice?

As a writer, I never stick with the same kind of writing for a month. I draft several blog posts at a time, pause to craft a persuasive email, and end each day with a journal entry. Why should I expect kids to hold their attention with a piece of writing for longer than I could handle myself? Scheduling breaks from the constraints of your curriculum gives kids a breather and prevents burnout.

Choices help writers build authorship and identity. When kids can write without teacher limits, they learn the most about themselves as writers. They are more likely to take risks when writing something they truly care about, rather than an assignment for their teacher. 

What does Freewrite Friday look like?

I still lead a minilesson, but it’s a skill or strategy that can be applied to any type of writing. (Freewrite Fridays are also a great opportunity for kids to teach. Learn more from my post about student-led small groups). 

In second grade, there are almost no limits on what students can create. I try my hardest to hold my tongue and let the writers write. So, yes, I allowed the battle scene in a war story and the hilarious chronicles of a walking and talking hot dog. (Learn more from Beth Moore’s 2018 post, Uncomfortable Topic Choices in Writing Workshop.)

Freewrite Fridays are full of surprises. I see previously reluctant writers get energized and overhear incredible conversations about writing. I often observe some terrific collaboration too, like the girls who created a realistic fiction series or the boys who worked together to write a graphic novel. One of my favorite parts of Freewrite Friday is the perseverance kids develop. Last Halloween, a second grader started a scary story. She revisited this piece faithfully every Friday and finally completed it in March. I love that Freewrite Friday gave her time to work on this passion project.

You don’t have to choose Fridays. But I challenge you to prioritize time every week for student freedom and choice. Picking a day and communicating that to students protects this sacred time. 

How can I explain freewrite time to colleagues who think deviation from our curriculum negatively impacts student achievement?

Defend Freewrite Friday to colleagues and administration by pointing out the skilled and passionate writing kids create when they have the freedom to do so. Back up your decisions with research or TWT blog posts. I believe some of the best writing in my classroom is crafted on Fridays, and have evidence of kids meeting the standards and growing as writers in their choice pieces.

Your colleagues might even be inspired to join you, like my friend Kaitlin Kilby:

Tweet: "Thanks Leah Koch for getting me to try freewrite Friday! We ended the writing block with poems, songs, comics, stories, and lots of fun. Student authorship starts with student voice and choice.

Enough with “TGIF.” Let’s get kids to start cheering “TGIFF”- Thank God It’s Freewrite Friday!

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