Last year, when it was time to sign up for extracurricular activities, I chose to run a junior Boys’ Writing club.
Sometimes I find writing such a challenge for students. They struggle with how to make it “look right” and when I explain that spelling and neatness do not have to be the main foci, they can find it hard to believe. How is it possible that writing can be effective when there are misspelled words or words crossed out on the page?
So, my mission was born. I wanted the Boys’ Writing club to take writing in a different direction and helps students to see that it can be such a powerful tool for communication.
I began with some research. Namely, what were issues at our school that our club could address through writing? How could I use these issues to give writing a purpose?
Here’s what I came up with:
-775 students in our school
-families that are new to Canada
-lunch recess is 55 minutes
-some areas of our playground are closed during winter
-daily problems happen outside that students talk about when they come in after lunch recess
When our club met for the first time, the vision was clear: we could do an advice column to help the students who have problems outside at recess. We made an action plan, the boys committed to attending weekly meetings and I asked them to come up with a name: “Kings of Writing”, they told me.
We discussed how the advice column could work: we would make mailboxes, students from around the school could write letters to the club and we would write responses to these letters. I decided to add one twist. Rather than writing a good copy of these letters, we would record the final responses on an iPad and play these responses over the announcements once a week.
The “Kings” were thrilled. Hearing their responses made them feel like they were doing something worthwhile and I think writing took on a whole other meaning for them.
Here’s a sampling:
This year, I’m doing a version of Kings of Writing that is open to all my students. They collect issues from around the school and we respond to the letters during class time. In some small way, I feel like I’m preparing my class for their generation. Maybe next year, we can do video responses to be played in every classroom!