Part of biulding endurance in writing in my classroom is using daily journaling in response to what I try to make high-interest prompts. We've been journaling for about 10 days so far and my results are encouraging.
One common frustration is the way almost all of my writers start their journal prompts. Today was a prime example. One of the prompts was, "What are three things in your life of which you are proud. What makes you proud of each?"
Any teacher who has thrown such a prompt at their kids knows most beginning writers will come back with a first sentence that starts something like, "Three things in my life I'm proud of are..."
Determined to show my students why that can make for painful reading, I played just the intro. of Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" from the movie 8 Mile.
The song starts with a piano solo a la the introduction to a Mariah Carey song. Just as you're getting pulled in and lulled in to thoughts of herbal tea and afternoon naps, a strong bass guitar line takes the place of the guitar.
Before I started the song, I wrote the question, "What do you notice about the beginning of this song?" on the board and told them all I wanted to do was listen and write.
When it was over, after promising we could listen to more of the song later, I asked them to share what they noticed.
The results were great.
"In the beginning, I thought it was going to be a Mariah Carey song because it sounded like one of her beats, but then it changed up," a student recalled in last period.
It got me where I wanted to be and got them thinking about how they started their writing.
I asked them to think of what they wrote today and what they read of other people. "Raise you hand if what you wrote or read started with..." I listed the usual suspects, hands went up.
"Would you really want to read that?"
A chorus of "No, that would be boring."
"Then I challenge you not to write it. Don't write what you wouldn't want to read. Easy is boring."
Talking to other teachers after school today, it sounds like they were listening. Tomorrow's journal prompt will be a better barometer.