I am convinced that talking is one antidote for the “I don’t know what to write about” blues that our young writers sometimes face. That feeling often comes during writing workshop when children settle into their spots, stare at the blank page in their notebook, and anxiously wait for ideas to come flowing out. The good news is that there are intentional strategies that we can use as part of the minilesson to prepare children for a successful start to independent writing. There are strategies we can incorporate into minilessons to get children excited about their own ideas and to “prime the pump” for writing--no pencil required. Simply giving children time to talk about their ideas is a powerful strategy before sending them off to write on their own. This strategy validates the natural process of moving from thinking to talking and talking to writing. When an idea or story comes to my mind, I often talk it through with whoever will listen as part of my process. What may seem like rambling to a partner is actually a story in the making that is beginning to take shape. Talking is a strategy that can help writers move forward at any stage of the writing process. However, making time for talking in the prewriting stage can yield rewards for young writers as they get started.
Here are a few examples of how talk can prepare children for writing success:
Talking is a form of brainstorming. When children talk with partners about their ideas, they can try on different possibilities to see which one fits best without committing the ideas on paper.
Talking helps children begin to organize their stories. Children first organize the events of their stories for the listener from beginning to end before writing anything down.
Talking allows writers to explore with new words and vocabulary to create meaning. Children use descriptive words to talk about their ideas and then transfer these words to writing.
Talking builds writing confidence. The opportunity to talk allows writers to process thoughts and ideas before putting them on paper. This kind of rehearsal allows most writers to enter into independent writing with a plan in mind and thus more confidence.
If you frequently hear the words, “I don’t know what to write about,” see if adding a talking routine to your writing workshop will help. Try to keep this saying in mind, “Today is a story worth telling.” It reminds us that sometimes we need to tell our story in order to write one.