That Thing You Do! Ariel Bealer–Giving Our Youngest Writers the Gift of Choice

I’m so honored that Ariel Bealer is today’s guest blogger for That Thing You Do! Ariel is a first grade teacher on our campus. She and her students write daily and when I’m able, I sneak into their Writer’s Workshop. You can follow Ariel on Twitter @a_bealer and on Instagram @iheartpenguinz

 

Once a month my sister and I stand in front of a little wall of nail polish and the great debate begins. Do we choose an in-season color? Our favorite color? We could always go wild and try neon or glitter.

The ways to teach writing seem as endless as the choices in nail polish color. While some things will always be #NO there are so many techniques that fit different ages and seasons of teaching.

When I was ready to start refining how I taught writing, I went back to my childhood. 8-year-old Ariel just knew she was going to be an author. I still have stories from elementary school, including “Willy and Wanda Worm” from my alliteration phase. I wanted my students to love creating and entertaining with writing the way I did.

I decided to dedicate time and effort to helping my students write about what they love, even if it’s a story about Pokemon Every. Single. Time. I’d tried the structured, teacher-directed, answer the prompt writing, like a good safe polish, and it was time to set my babies free.

These days in writing we still study different genres, and I do make my students practice new kinds of writing (you know they’d be writing letters to their friends all day every day). But I’m willing to share our writing time for the sake of my students being able to write for personal enjoyment. Each day we do our genre study and practice new techniques either together or independently, then they always have 10-15 minutes of free choice writing, followed by the occasional Author’s Chair.

Today we started by moving from reading “How To” books to looking at the steps to write one. Students had previously made a list of “How To” topics. They chose one and then wrote a list of things they’d need when teaching that. The rest of the writing block was theirs to write as they pleased. Tomorrow we’ll make a first draft plan for their “How To” book, and when they finish they will again be able to use the rest of the writing block to write whatever they want.

Some of the most beautiful and amazing things have come from those moments of free choice writing. My class inspires me to believe that maybe 30-year-old Ariel is going to be an author.

 

–Ariel Bealer

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