The Pen and Paper

Developed by The Indiana Writing Project

A local site of the National Writing Project

August 2018

10th Edition

Thoughts about writing...

Welcome come back after a very short summer. . . We hope you all are rested and excited about the 2018-2019 school year. We are happy to be pondering thoughts for the Pen and Paper. Our conversations started with, Why do we need to teach writing? William Zinsser has said, Writing is thinking on paper. Cynthia Ozick feels that it is essentially an act of courage. Ernest Hemingway stated that Writing is long periods of thinking and short periods of writing. Whatever the reason, we all agree that writing is important! Writing provides limitless benefits for people of all ages--it is hard to enumerate them--but we will try.

Relationships have grown out of writing with our students. Because we are having meaningful dialogue with our students daily about their writing and are writing with our students, we have become a family of learners. The trust and cooperation between us is seamless and compelling. We discovered the writing, conferencing, and sharing is teaching our students how to think and question in a deep, meaningful way. We have found the kids care about their writing, because they care about what their peers and teachers think. Isn’t that what we want in a successful student?

Another reason writing is so powerful is the self discovery involved. Through reflections, examination of personal stories, and evaluation of strengths and weakness, we found students are more willing courageously take risks in their writing and sharing. But we, as teachers also benefit from writing instruction. Using our experiences and knowledge, we not only help the kids become open and vulnerable in their writing, but we also become open and vulnerable as writers and teachers. Barry Lane, author of But How Do We Teach Writing?, said it best, We teach writing to help ourselves and our students find out who we are. Leading them through reflections will be beneficial all through life. Through writing, we learn from our students as much as our students learn from us!

By providing a safe and reflective place to write within our classrooms, we also discovered that we, as teachers, need to be ready for the topics about which our students choose to write. Writing provides a place for writers to tell the stories they often cannot verbalize. Story topics in our classroom range in depth from the fairy tales involving unicorns and butterflies to highly personal stories involving the accidental death of a sibling to the fears of person experiencing drug addiction. We learned the power of self expression as therapy and processing as well as being a creative outlet. No matter the age level of the students, writing is critical to promote thinking, processing, and questioning.

We would like to leave you to marinate in the words of Ruth Ayers from her book, Enticing-Hard-to-Reach-Writers,

Enticing Students to Write is about finding the line between enabling and empowering. It’s hard to find when kids come from dark places. Teachers need to understand the hard places and find ways to uplift them Take leaps of faith and make moves to entice kids to write. You may want to quit. Don’t. . . Remember you have the power to change the course of lives. All children deserve to know that they can write a different version of their stories. Fight the good fight. It may be hard, but it is worth it.

Press on brave teacher (154).

What do you think of our new format? Let us know! Also, is there a topic about which you have questions? Send us an email! We want the Pen and Paper to be helpful to you! Until next month!


Shirley and Susan

Big picture

How can you use this mentor text?

We love this book and think you would, too! Night in the Country is a great mentor text that emphasizes, in a different way, paying attention to one's community. This book is great to model onomatopoeia, description, magic threes, and imagery. Your invitation to write could be to write about night in the city, night in the zoo, night in my house, or even a day at school. Something to think about!

What is happening with IWP?

Check out our website ( )to see what is going on! Watch for information about future programs coming in future months.