When I was in fifth grade, I wrote an article about how a piece of paper goes from being part of a tree to being a page in a newspaper. I turned it in. My teacher returned it with a good grade. I was satisfied.
Days later, I was asked if I could return the article. The eighth graders were publishing a school newspaper and wanted to use my article. They wanted to print my article. Oh my gosh, I thought to myself. I’m a writer.
If you know a student whose writing you wish to encourage, publish it. How?
- Type it up, print it and make it look good. Or ask the student to. When I show students versions of their work printed on white paper with no erasures, no cross-outs, and no mistakes, they are speechless. When writing looks professional, students think it is professional, and by extension, they think of themselves as writers.
- Turn the writing into booklets. Type the words in small sections about three inches wide. Carefully cut the sections apart and paste them at the bottoms of folded white paper. (8 ½ by 11 computer paper is fine.) Ask the child to illustrate the top of the page in crayon or colored pencils. Or cut out illustrations from magazines or clip art online. Add a cover page which includes a title and the student author’s name. Add an “about the author” page at the end with the student author’s autobiography and photo. Staple the pages together along the fold.
- If you are computer savvy, do all that online and download it or email it to special people—grandparents, former teachers, friends.
- Start a family blog and include your student’s writing with family news and pictures. Make it possible for your child to show her friends her online writing via an app.
- Encourage your child’s school to create a “Writers’ Wall” where the good writing of students is displayed for classmates to see.
- At home begin a three-ring binder of student writing and display it on your coffee table for guests to browse. At school do the same thing for classroom writers with tabs to section off each student’s work or the work of each grade.
- Make a video of your child reading his work aloud. Email it. Add it to a family blog. If appropriate, let it serve as your family’s holiday greeting.
It’s not the publishing, but what that publishing means in the mind of students. Their self-perception changes from the fifth kid in the third row to published writer.
If we want to encourage anything, we need to celebrate it.