I initially took this idea from Kelly Gallagher in his excellent book Teaching Adolescent Writers. Over the years it has morphed into the cornerstone of my writing and grammar instruction.

It is a place for my students to explore their thoughts on various topics, practice new grammar concepts, and refine previous held beliefs.

The goal is fluency, not perfection. Like Gallagher says in his book, students need to get in the pool and swim if they want to be better swimmers. If we want our students to be better writers, they need more time to write! I hear many teachers talk about audiance and purpose; I agree these concepts are often neglected and are very important. But sometimes, students need to simply write, and write for extended periods of time.

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You can find a copy of one Writing Explorations HERE.

Here are the nuts and bolts of how I typically integrate the Writing Explorations into my classroom.

Every Monday, I announce the new topic and go over potential sub-topics. Let’s say the topic is Photographs, students can write on ANYTHING related to Photographs. I once had a student write about the music video for Def Lepard’s song “Photograph” (I don’t want your, photograph…I don’t need your, photograph…)

This year on Tuesdays, my school has a late start day, so our classes are only thirty-five minutes or so. Students have a choice to work on their Writing Explorations, read their Reading Counts book (don’t get me started on RC, I HATE it, but am required to use it!), or work on anything they need to finish.

The rest of the week, students can work on their Writing Explorations whenever they finish any of their work and there is still time remaining in class.

Truth be told, most of my students tell me they work on their Writing Explorations on Sunday night. Typical.

The next Monday, after explaining the new topic for the week, students begin working on their Weekly Review (this is a future post). I call each student up one by one, and talk with them briefly about what’s on their mind regarding the assignment.

Monday nights I read their Weekly Reviews which have a question where students briefly explain what they wrote about in their Writing Explorations and answer questions regarding the previous week. I firmly believe reflection to be an important part of the learning cycle.

I have 205 students, reading three pages of writing a week from each student is impracticle. Having students briefly explain their writing gives me insight into their larger pieces.

As the year progresses, I see students taking risks, gaining confidence, and improving thier writing…

…and smiling….

 

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