May Writing Challenge

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

My students are brave and inspiring and amazing – in writing AND in life.

So I’m dedicating May to them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much it takes for them to write, without complaint, WHATEVER it is we throw their way. Every genre, every challenge, every topic.

Yes, I do realize that we have things to teach them, and many of those things are important skills as a writer. Still. How does it feel when most of the writing we do isn’t actually of our choice?

That led me to think.

How would I do with assigned topics?

I’ve solicited my students for writing topics. I’ve asked them about the topics and assignments that were the most difficult, the most trying, the most frustrating.

And I’m going to write them, too.

Understand, this isn’t a knock on any of my colleagues. We have a job to do when it comes to writing instruction. Besides, several of the suggestions were assignments I had given them. I suppose I’m not always sparking joy, if I’m being honest with myself.

What it would be like if I truly walked the walk? If I made myself write whatever topic they threw my way, without complaint? How would I evolve as a writer? As a teacher of writing? As a human?

So, for the month of May, I’ll be picking up writing topics at the suggestion (direction!) of my students. It might be fun, it might be educational, it might be gray hair-inducing.

This month is for the loveys. Let’s go!

This post is for the Slice of Life Challenge on Two Writing Teachers. Check ’em out!

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35 Responses to “May Writing Challenge”

  1. cvarsalona Says:

    Lainie, turning the table over to the children will be a great endeavor and writing journey for all. I think this is wonderful. Students always enjoy seeing what the teacher writes. Keeps us posted on what ensues. Best wishes for a wonder-filled May.

  2. dianelisa2 Says:

    I hope you enjoy your project!

    I had the realization that when I assigned topics for a class, they were usually things that I found inspiring. However, when I was browsing the Internet for topics for the writing challenge, I found that even some terrific ideas fell flat when I tried them. It made me a little more empathetic with students, but I still require them to write sometimes from prompts.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      I definitely think there is a lot of room for prompt-based writing. A lot of my writing (think evaluations, emails, proposals, newsletters) are, technically, assigned writing prompts. Where that fits in with student choice is something else, I think. I also chuckle when you talk about your great ideas that fall short sometimes. Isn’t that the way as teachers? Sometimes we have an idea that we’re SUPER excited about, and…crickets.

  3. Christine Says:

    What a great challenge – and a super way for your students to see you as a writer too. I believe there will be so many more connections made with your kids for sure.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! I’ve discovered through TWT how incredibly powerful it is for kids to see me as a writer. I can’t count how many ways that knowledge has supported my kids as writers.

  4. Tim Gels Says:

    Well, this is certainly going to be interesting! I’ve always found that my students are more motivated to write when I write alongside them, but I don’t know if I’ve ever allowed them to come up with topics for me (though they do have a wide amount of latitude to come up with their own). I’m looking forward to trying this myself, and hearing how it works out for you.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! As I often say to myself before trying something crazy, “We’ll see what happens!” I’m hoping that it will be an interesting and eye-opening exercise, for sure. I have a feeling it will be.

  5. arjeha Says:

    This is a great idea. Besides giving students to power over what you write, it will also give you a sense of how the topics you assign your students sits with them. I think this is a a great research project and I hope you consider writing up the results when it is over and submitting it for publication.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      You are exactly right about this – it is a powerful way to get a sense of what my kids think of the writing that’s assigned to them, and how they respond to it. It’s funny…I hadn’t thought of this as research in any way until folks like you had mentioned it, but…yes! Yes, I suppose this is a form of research, isn’t it?

  6. Lakshmi Bhat Says:

    A very good idea 😊 please share some of the topics. Thank you.

  7. theapplesinmyorchard Says:

    Loved writing alongside my students. I am not sure I ever let them pick the topics aside from our newspaper unit and brochure units – which was always at this time of year. I hope it goes well for you. I look forward to a return to writing with students this month as well. Perhaps, I’ll have them assign something to me!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      They definitely had fun with the “assignment” part of my request, that’s for sure. We’ll see where it goes!

  8. Stacey Shubitz Says:

    This feels like the beginnings of an action research project, Lainie! I hope you’ll share an update once June arrives.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Action research. Hmmm….that hadn’t ever occurred to me, but you’re right, Stacey! As for the updates, those will absolutely be on the way!

  9. hardly an artist Says:

    Yes, please share their ideas. We just started opinion writing in 2nd grade and they are eager to hear what I have to say about pizza (favorite food), cats (least favorite animal), and …well… writing (favorite subject)! Thanks for taking the plunge and sharing it with us, too!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Will do! I’ll post a photo of the list(s) from my notes.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! The topics ranged all the way from stuff like “write a horror story without gore” to “what makes us human?” Broad range, indeed!

  10. Becca Says:

    I love your insight and your idea. Hope you reflect back later this month and tell us what you have learned.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      I will! I’ll say it was interesting to see the range of topics they offered, for sure!

  11. Erica J Says:

    I love this challenge! I did it myself a few semesters ago and should give it a try again. It’s a fun look into their writing lives and will do nothing but help them — especially if you conference and talk to them about your own challenges with the assignments/prompts/topics.

    My kids enjoyed me doing it and I’m sure yours will as well!

    Best of luck!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! I feel like writing itself gives me a certain amount of “street cred” with them, and they had a GREAT time developing topics.

  12. Ms Victor Reads Says:

    I am also intrigued and want to try this. Maybe I will have them make me a summer writing bingo board (that they could also use)! I can’t wait to hear how your challenge goes.

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  14. Shaista Says:

    I look forward to reading what you write this way! I get so much inspiration for ideas to try out by reading your posts!

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