I splurged on composition books for each student in my reading classes this semester; to begin, I am asking students to bring in (or snap pictures of) an early piece of writing they created when they were young. While the students will have their own web sites to post blogs, I believe good old-fashioned writing in an old-school composition book brings out authentic expression that can’t be replaced. To initiate that authenticity, I will be sharing my own writings. Here is a sampling of my first writing experiences**:
a. “Thanksgiving” – I was seven years old when I wrote this in the first grade. The only point I remember about the assignment is that we were told to write something about Thanksgiving. I associated Thanksgiving with my brother’s birthday as he was born around this feast, and I was recalling the special Thanksgiving when my mom was pregnant with my bro. To this day, I joke with him that my story about Mom having a turkey indeed came true. 🙂 This is one of my first full-length “papers.” Embarrassingly apparent is my lack of spelling skills – thank goodness I grew up relishing spelling bees and Speak & Spell (true story!).
b. “The Unusual Christmas Morning” – I sharply remember this assignment because I enjoyed it immensely – 5th grade, age 11. It involved drafting, editing, re-writing, and drawing an original Christmas story. Once the composition and drawings were complete, my teacher sent the drafts off to be “published.” I recall my anxiousness in waiting for the book to be returned all bound and neat. This particular storyline is one I was always fascinated with – toys coming to life when humans are not around – and I re-created it again and again using different settings whenever I had the urge. To this day, I am drawn to similar story lines. “King of the Dollhouse” by Patricia Clapp, “Wednesday Witch” by Ruth Chew and “The Doll People” by Brian Selznick continue claim to a closet space at this very moment. I jokingly declare that Pixar needs to send me royalties – Toy Story came after my ‘published’ piece. My mother still brings this book out to display every Christmas. Speaking of, I believe one of the reasons I’m driven with my English teaching endeavors is because reading and writing was always celebrated in my home – our fridge was consistently a landing for prized papers coupled with every room in our home accented with books thrown strategically around ( . . . . hmmm . . . sounds familiar!)
My message about writing is this: write every.single.day. Writing is a release. Writing is an expression. Writing is an extension. Writing is a connection. I learned this from these very first pieces and I continue to discover more about myself and about the writing process each day. It is a gift to take full advantage of.
When you cannot write, read. When you cannot read, write.
**This activity is an adaption from Expository Composition – Discovering Your Voice by Gary Anderson and Tony Romano (a comprehensive resource for writing I refer to again and again!)