Thanks to Katherine Sokolowski and her 7th graders for contributing this blog.
Last year when NCTE celebrated the National Day of Writing I was in the midst of our personal narrative unit. I asked my fifth grade students to contribute to a Padlet sharing why they felt writing was important. Their responses blew me away.
This year I’ve moved up to seventh grade. For some of my 70+ students, this is our second year together. Others I did not have the blessing of teaching in fifth grade, so they are still trying to figure me out. Like last year, I’m just in the first few days of our personal narrative unit. I love to have this as one of our first big pieces of writing because I want my students to see that I value their stories. I want them to feel heard. I want them to see the power of their own writing.
This week they came in and I shared the quote from Don Graves with them, “You have a story to tell.” We talked about what that meant, why I wanted them to dig deep and see what story was important and pressing to be told. Was it funny, silly, scary, hard, or sad? We have room for all of these stories, but some are begging to come out.
After a few days in a narrative unit, I can almost see the class coming together as a closer community. Kids sit in groups and share with other students that they wouldn’t have considered friends before. We dry tears from heartaches and from laughter. We trust each other with our deepest stories. It is amazing.
We wrapped up our week with the following on the board…
Why I write…
I asked them to just write from their hearts and tell me their truth. My beautiful seventh graders laid their souls on the page. Here are just a few of their words, and mine:
I write because I love it. I write because putting my feelings down on paper is so much easier. Because once I start, I can’t stop myself. I write because my words matter. – Macey
I write because I can be free to write anything I want. I can express what I feel by writing funny, sad, angry stories. At first I didn’t like to write, but when my grandma died the only thing I could do was write away my sadness. – Nicolai
I write because I love it. I am a shy person and I feel like writing is a way to let out what I am thinking. If I don’t write, then people won’t know me as well as they could. I think that it is important for people to know who I am. That is why I write. – Renni
I write because it is a way to express the way I feel. People can easily manipulate my words but they cannot manipulate my writing. If something bad happens, I can let out my feelings on paper, and not have to rely on someone to listen. Writing is important because some people are quiet and don’t like to talk, but they can write so everyone can understand their feelings and the way they think. – Daevion
I write when I have so many emotions in my body that I can’t hold them in any longer. I write them down on a page because it is like sharing your personal feelings with the person you are most comfortable with. – Eliza
I write to be heard. In this world of shouting, I feel like writing is a way to amplify my quiet voice. I write to sort out the feelings in my head, to make sense of the chaos. I write because it heals my soul and makes me feel stronger when I’m done. I write because without letting my thoughts spill out onto the page, I would certainly explode. – Me
And now, we turn the question over to you. Why do you write? If you don’t, remember Don Graves – you have a story to tell. Go tell it.
If you would like to see the other responses from my students, they can be found here.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for 20 years—from kindergarten through seventh grade—and currently teaches seventh grade in Monticello, Illinois. Her thoughts about the power of relationships to engage readers and writers have appeared on NPR and Choice Literacy. She co-facilitates The Nerdy Book Club blog and blogs at Read Write Reflect . You can find her on Twitter at @katsok.