Friday, September 26

Friday Freewrites

Woke up this morning, congested and in no mood to rush to work. But it was Friday so I didn't worry about the day feeling too long and I didn't have to think about getting materials together because...

Friday is Friday Freewrite Day in my classroom!

Last year, I struggled with getting my students to write without reservation in their journals. The prompts were usually about something we'd been discussing or reading in class (not my idea, as I like to think of journaling as a means to "escape"). I'd get so frustrated and could only imagine how my students felt. Journal writing was hands-down my favorite thing to do in school and I really held myself to the task of never letting my pen stop moving.
I hold my students to this same challenge every Friday. Since I only see each class for a single period of Fridays, I let them use the 45-minute block to write for 20 minutes and use the last 15 minutes to listen to the writing of some of their classmates. A simple unoriginal idea that has altered the attitude towards journal writing and positively changed the mood of Fridays in my classroom.

They come into classroom, the “materials manager” hands out their journals and they all record the date and time. Then I come around with a bin full of about 65 cards, each with a different writing prompt. They can choose any card they want – and this is why it works. This is the onlyreason why it works. After they’ve all done this, I set the timer, turn on the music (each class has it’s own preferences; usually it’s the “All Stevie” station on AOL Music Radio for the 8th graders, Native Tongues inspired hip hop for the 7th graders and Brasilian or West African music for the 6th graders), and we all write.

Even though the *cough*”coach”*cough* has a problem with it (big surprise), she hasn’t been able to articulate what the problem is exactly (shocking...) or offer an equally effective alternative (...). I just want my students to become comfortable telling their stories, I want written self-expression to become second nature. Those who have a hard time coming up with an idea are guided by the cards, those who have no problem, tend to write whatever their thoughts lead them to.
They zone out. Really, they go silent, all hunched over thier desks, making sure their pens don't stop moving until the bell rings. And let me tell you, they get mad when the bell rings.
You have no idea how good it feels to hear a student - who didn't write anything at all last year - say, "Yes, it's Friday Freewrite!" and then show me three pages full of his thoughts twenty minutes later.

I love it because it makes Fridays quiet, mellow, and people leave my class feeling accomplished.

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