Classroom Connection: Writing with students

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"I'm just going to leave my Google Doc right up here on the board," I said, pointing to the projected list of interview questions my high school students had generated for our Humans of New York-style writing and speaking project. "I'll write an answer to the question you pick and you can watch while you're working on your own."

My students seemed interested. They'd each drawn one of their classmates' questions out of an envelope at random, and I'd asked the last student to pick two and choose one for me to answer. Everyone got right to work, writing on a laptop or by hand (I like to give that choice), but at different points, all of them focused on my Google Doc, watching my words stumble across the page, unfolding in real time.

They saw me hit the "delete" key, fix typos, add more detail to sentences, and pause when I felt stuck before continuing to write. They heard me read my words aloud and revise as I went ( "oh, I'd go back and add more information here"; "I'd probably change this word"). They identified what I'd done well and we used those comments to build a rubric they could use for their own writing.

Instead of telling them that knowing how to start a piece of writing can be tough but brainstorming helps, that sharing personal work isn't easy but can be rewarding, that revision is necessary-- I showed them. Sure, I felt a little nervous; it's the beginning of the year, and we're all still getting to know each other. But I really believe that when teachers write in front of students, it doesn't just help students learn more about the writing process; it builds community in the classroom.