This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with the Two Writing Teachers community.
I polled my students today as they wrote their opinions on space exploration.
If you could choose, what would you rather write, a narrative, an informational piece or an opinion?
Approximately half of the students would rather write narrative and half preferred opinion writing. Only two students choose informational as an equal to story or argument writing. My next question was, why?
Narrative lovers said:
- you get to think of what you want characters to do
- you can plan out how you want it to be
- it feels like you are in the story and you have to find the solution
- you don’t have to do as much research
- it’s fun!
Students want to dive into stories. Create the problem, find the solution. They are only limited by what they can imagine. That’s why fantasy is a blast. It not only allows them to create characters but also make impossible beings and situations. Why don’t I do more of this?
Argument lovers said:
- you can write about what you think
- my opinion matters
- you can choose your side
- research is fun
Students have opinions about all kinds of things and having the opportunity to put those feelings out in the world is an incredible feeling. What I heard again, and again was, “I can choose what I think!” Power for those who might feel powerless from time to time is intoxicating.
The few informational lovers said:
- it tells what is true
- research is fun
For this group of kiddos, informational writing is a difficult sell. Maybe it minimizes them. Maybe their research skills are underdeveloped and they find the facts boring to retell. Perhaps when they are more adept in research techniques they will be able to see that “facts” aren’t always simple and the “truth,” according to them, needs to be told.
This informal survey of sixty shows me a few things about the writing lives of my kiddos.
First, students love control.
Second, choice and voice are premium commodities.
Third, they want to play and have fun with writing.
A simple question offers a lot of insight. It tells me where joy lies and what needs to be supported.
I want students to write. And write.
I want to see them light up when it’s time to write and complain when we have to put it away.
I want them to ask if they can work on it at home.
Every group of students tells a different story. And the story changes throughout the year. It’s important to remind myself that within all of the complicated work we do, with all the high expectations, to remember to ask the simple questions that can drive what comes next.