At the most fundamental level writing is a means to communicate ideas. After 6 years of teaching 5th grade, I am certain students benefit from seeing writing as more powerful than accolades or grades. Students need a relationship with writing that demonstrates the power it contains. One of the school wide goals at my site is that students leave our community ready to fully participate as citizens in this country. A fundamental part of citizenship is understanding the power of voice. In my classroom, I want students to experience the power their words have to effect change. This means students need opportunity to connect their writing to experiencing that kind of change.
Students encounter my power to shape their environment every time we enter the classroom together. It is really important to me that students also feel empowered to participate in the shaping of our learning environment as well. I want to give them regular opportunities to see how the power of their words can lead to change.
This year I implemented a letter writing system in our classroom. This involves student correspondence with me every week. I ask students to share what is going well, what they don’t like, and what they may want to change. Often in these letters students make me aware of their feelings, books they would like in our classroom library, goals they have for themselves, the fact they think social studies is sometimes boring. They discuss the seating arrangement, whether or not they can see the board, and how they feel if I asked them repeatedly to stop talking. Often the things they bring up require an immediate response on my part, sometimes I ask more questions and provide explanations, but most importantly their words help shape their world.
As I post this short blog, I visualize adding a poster to my room that says, “Our words help shape our world.” On the first day of school I asked my students which of them were writers. Not very many raised their hands. Even if they don’t grow up looking to a rite the next great American novel, they can all leave understanding that their words can help shape their world.