Friday Free Topic

My writing students write in their journals almost every day. Daily journal writing is the crux of skill-based writing instruction in my book. Natalie Goldberg said it best in her book Writing Down the Bones. If you want to write and don’t know where to start, Godlberg’s work might help.

I outlined my own practice of using journals in the classroom  in the article “Building the Habit of Writing” for Educational Leadership magazine. If I were a physical education instructor, I would not expect students to run a marathon on the first day. A responsible teacher would give students time to exercise and practice first. To not do so would result in students getting injured or at best hate running forever.

Yet as English teachers we often expect students to be able to write successful analytical essays without much practice. This results in students getting injured or at best hating writing forever.

In this momemt my students are writing in their journals. Every other day of the week I provide a topic connected with the curriculum. On Fridays, they have to choose.

Give me a topic, they beg. Think for yourself, I counter. Eventually, they do. Independent thinking is a common by-product of regular opportunity to practice independent thinking.

If you wanted to be a writer, you could write a page a day about whatever you wanted. You could  practice the connection between the beads on the string that are your head, eyes, hand and paper. It’s hard some days, easy on others. There is no short cut. There is no way but through. That’s why I called it building a habit.

Do you write in a journal or notebook regularly? If so, what is the effect of this practice on your writing, thinking? feels?  If  you don’t, why not? One rule: You can’t answer that you don’t have time.

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