Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Topics are in your Writer's Backpack?

Each year, I teach my students that writer's have a backpack of "go-to" topics that they love to write about.  I teach them that we usually have a person, place, hobby/sport, object, and idea/opinion that we feel passionate about and write about a lot!  Donald Murray called these topics our "Writing Territories." In the past, I have always taught this lesson and strategy mid-year and do not know why I waited so long.  This year, it was my first mini-lesson in writing workshop and it was a great way to launch right into our writer's notebooks and the list strategy writer's use to generate ideas.

I made my "backpack" on the chart paper and modeled what topics I find myself writing about over and over again.  I modeled thinking aloud why I am passionate about the topics as I created my backpack.

For active engagement, students turned and talked with their partner to list the topics inside their own backpack's and then wrote them down in their notebooks.  Throughout the week, I modeled using the list strategy to generate ideas and we took one topic from our backpack and made bulleted lists of small moments for the topic.  Then students starred one moment to write an entry about in their writer's notebook.  By the end of the week, students knew which topics they love to write about and had a variety of entries written about them. 

This week, we are using our "Writer's Backpack" to generate ideas for Personal Essay.  This year, we are launching our year with Personal Essay instead of Personal Narrative.  I modeled using my "backpack" of topics to think about, "What ideas do I have about this person, place, or hobby/sport?" Then chose one idea to write an entry about, proving that idea with my small moments and examples.  

By having students identify their "Writer's Backpack" or "Territory" of topics they love to write about, it minimizes the amount of writer's block comments we hear from students such as, "I have nothing to write about!"  I'd love to hear how you help students identify and use their "Backpack" or "Territory" of topics and what you call them so please share your ideas and thoughts.  

Happy Writing! :)

1 comment:

  1. Not exactly the same, but I used to have my students keep little notebooks we called Author Thoughts. It was a place for them to gather observations to later use -- or not -- in their writing.