As teachers we get the wonderful job of taking children on the journey of becoming writers. I loved watching children develop as writers; to see them gain confidence in their writing abilities was one of the many joys in my teaching experience. Through this journey young writers explore all the successes and challenges of what it means to be a writer.
Getting children to write a story of their own can at times be challenging. In the past, I often struggled with getting students to write about their own topic and not simply copy or take my ideas. I didn’t know how to stop this from happening. Then one year I finally took the time to investigate why this always occurred. To my surprise, I realized that even though my students would begin their stories by mimicking my ideas, soon their stories would evolve into their own creations.
For example, I would say, “Today I’m going to write about going to the zoo and then eating at the park.” After I was done writing the students would have time for independent writing on any topic of their choosing. I’d listen to students read me their writing and their words would eventually start to change from sounding like mine to becoming their own. For instance, “I went to the zoo and then ate at the park and I was playing with my sister by the water.” Or “I went to the zoo and then ate at the park and it started raining so we ran to the car.” Or “I went to the zoo and I got lost.” I began to realize that almost always there was more to their writing than what I had originally wrote in mine. Through observation, I concluded they were using my writing as a starting point.
So before you ask your students not to copy your own writing, perhaps take a moment to reflect on why they are repeating your words.
Here are a few suggestions to encourage children to come up with their own topics:
Give children time--as the classroom year passes they will gain confidence in their ability to write
Allow children to share what they are planning to write before writing
Provide anchor charts with topic ideas
Model how to come up with a topic
Use mentor text to show how authors come up with topics