My writing classes consist of reading (perhaps the most important activity required to become a better writer), speaking (oral stories help the student to make the connection between oral and written words), poetry (the words and rhythms become naturally ingrained) and emotional and sensory exercises (lively writing requires a connection to self)—and, of course, lots and lots of writing.
As the student progresses, all forms of writing are tackled—vignettes, scenes, poems, essays, opinions, short stories …Plot, conflict, character development and dialogue are studied, as well as sentence, paragraph and story structure. Similes, metaphors, symbolism, imagery and other devices are discussed and enjoyed.
Two of the most common comments on my students’ school report cards are “more detail needed in writing” and “deeper comprehension required in reading”. My teaching technique ensures that the student wants to paint a picture for the reader and therefore create a scene where the smells, sights, sounds and other details are included. As writing improves, so does reading comprehension, and vice-versa.
To write well, the writer must have an original voice; this means being able to translate the unique and original way she sees the world into words and sentences in her own personal style.
No amount of exercises and technical skills will help a writer if the imagination, creativity and strong sense of self are not already present. This is why, as a teacher, I consider my first job is to encourage and validate the child’s (writer’s) point of view. This task never ends, because it is vital that the student feels the excitement and enthusiasm of communicating her thoughts, ideas, feelings and personal experiences with words.
A love of stories, both personal and imagined, is inherent in all of us, and helps us make sense of our lives. Telling stories well also requires a love of words and language and rhythm. These elements are essential to delight the reader and provoke interest in the subject matter.
It is a common maxim that writers should write what they know—this applies to children and teens too, so that is where I begin with my students. Together, we begin an exciting journey that often lasts many years.