Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Developing the Dispositions and Habits of Writers #SOL18
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Slice of Life: Developing the Dispositions and Habits of Writers #SOL18

That was really hard. 

Way more difficult than I anticipated.

I never realized how complicated this can be.


As I reflect on these comments made by a group of teachers who were drafting fictional stories, I realize how critical it is for teachers to engage in the process of writing.  If you don’t write you don’t know the process.  If you don’t know the process it is really difficult to connect with a writer.

Writing can be tough.  There are days that feel endless and unproductive.  I know this because I write.  Not only does this help me teach students how to craft, draft and revise, it helps me connect with them as writers who face hurdles and dead ends.  I understand why some students take time to get started.  I connect with students who have multiple pieces going at a time.  I can relate to the writer who is feeling unmotivated.  I don’t disturb the writer who needs an extra minute to finish her thought – even when the bell rings. I know we want our students to love writing but honestly anyone who writes also loves to hate it.

I continually make deals with myself for motivation.  New pens, a new notebook, a new mug, a new picture, a new necklace, a run if I make my word count – all used as bargaining chips to convince myself to write.  I am an adult, so I can bargain with myself.  What options do our students have when they are feeling uninspired?  Do we have pens that inspire?  Are there special seats for those who have writer’s block? Can students move when they are stuck in their writing?  Do we have motivational words on rocks for them to hold?  Do we save supplies so we can put out new materials throughout the year?  Do we help our writers develop rituals to get them through the hard?  Do we plan for them to celebrate – big steps and small steps?  I find myself rereading Ruth Ayres book, Enticing Hard-to Reach Writers.  She shares many practical solutions for connecting with and motivating writers – reminding us that little things matter.  She focuses on the processes and needs of writers and how we can support all the writers in the classroom.  We need to remember our job is to listen and provide for the needs of our students.  She tells us not to ask them where their pencil is, “If they need a pencil, give them a pencil.” (21)

I truly believe these rituals, plans, and small things I do for myself as a writer matter.  The disposition of a writer includes how to create a writerly life.  In classrooms, I think a lot about developing the disposition of our readers.  I have not focused as much on developing the dispositions of our writers.  If we take time to set our students up with books, help them make a plan to read at home, and model our reading lives, then we should do the same for writing.  Sharing not only our writing, but our writing lives will help our students become lifelong writers.


Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebMelanieLisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year.


  • Avatar
    Stacey Shubitz
    Posted at 12:41h, 14 March Reply

    You have to write to understand hat it is hard. You know. I know. Any teacher who writes knows about the deals and bargains we cut with ourselves.

    My greatest hope is for all kids to have teachers who are writers. It really is a necessity to be able to teach writing well.

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    Kendra Limback
    Posted at 13:02h, 14 March Reply

    This Slice of Life challenge is always a reminder of how hard the writing process really is. Especially for my emerging friends. Ruth’s book is on my TBR list for the summer. Thank you for the reminder to continue writing after this challenge is over.

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    Paula Bourque
    Posted at 13:32h, 14 March Reply

    This is so true. A writerly life is very gratifying, but not always “fun”. I guess if it were easy there would be no gratification or sense of accomplishment. Making sure our kids savor that sense of accomplishment before rushing onto the next thing is so important-I try to make sure I savor ‘having written’ before I rush into my ‘to do’ writing. Great post!

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    Diane Esolen Dougherty
    Posted at 15:36h, 14 March Reply

    Someone once said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is open a vein and bleed.”
    None of us is a born writer. I think rituals help, though mine often are procrastinating rituals.

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    Karen Terlecky
    Posted at 17:50h, 14 March Reply

    I participated in a writing institute this past summer, and the comments you led with reverberated around the room the first day. How important it is for us, as educators, to be writers ourselves to be able to converse and confer with student writers in meaningful ways.
    As always, love your slice.

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    Lynne R Dorfman
    Posted at 17:55h, 14 March Reply

    Teachers of writers must be teachers who write. I have often thought that narrative writing is more difficult than informational and ipinion writing. The subtle nuances, the idea of speeding things uo and slowing things down. Kids need to understand their own process. As teachers we need to support our students in ways that make the most sense. Some students need more thunk time. Some students need to draft with colored pens. Others draw first or need a laptop. Whatever it takes. Writing isn’t easy! Love Ruth’s book!

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    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 18:06h, 14 March Reply

    Clare, your post just jumped into the mind of a writer. Yes, teachers need to be writers to understand young writers in our classrooms. Teachers need to be writers to know when and what to respond to writers – and when to stay silent and give a writer more time. I think one of the best things teachers can do is share their writing with students. I shared with a fifth grade class last fall and it was a great experience for them and for me. Writers can help other writers become better writers.

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    Deb Day
    Posted at 00:52h, 15 March Reply

    When I wrote with my high school students, they knew I understood the assignment from a practical point of view. I was doing it with them.They also trusted my comments about their work. And I understood their complaints and worries. I knew that not everyone started with a mind map or wrote “sloppy copies” (I hate that term). I knew some needed to write on paper like I did to get started, while others did everything on the computer. I understood that sometimes, that first draft is everything you want it to be or that word choice could be a real struggle. My mantra–“If I’m going to be a teacher of writers, I have to write.”

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    Julie Johnson
    Posted at 00:55h, 15 March Reply

    Yes, yes, yes! Everything you say is so true! I know that I am a better writing teacher when I am writing myself.

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 01:38h, 15 March Reply

    I love your post and I love all the comments as well. It would be fun to collect everyone’s rituals and bargains. I’m pretty sure I’d give a kid a hard time if they opened up their words with friends app and played a few games, but that’s exactly what I do as part of my sit my butt in the chair and write routine… I might have to think about a lesson on routines that inspire us to get to work. Love, love this.

    BTW: I’m sure that I’ve never used running as a bargain with myself.

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    Elizabeth Moore
    Posted at 01:47h, 15 March Reply

    This is a great post with so many great ideas (and in the comments too!) We all need motivators to keep us going, especially when the going gets tough!

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    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 12:09h, 16 March Reply

    So, so true! I am making “deals” with myself as a writer all the time. It is interesting that I look at reading as a reward and writing as work. I need to figure out how to move writing into the reward realm.

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