In order to push student writers to develop their craft, we first need to know what writing is. Writing can be a lot of things but is especially meaningful when writers are able to bring their full selves to the page. As teachers we want student writing to be authentic and meaningful. After all, isn’t that what increases engagement and motivation — two barriers that can really get in our way?
Writers Bring Their Full Selves to the Page
One thing we can do is to have our students examine how writers bring their full selves to the page. One approach is to examine what writers bring of themselves by using windows and mirrors.
Mirrors and Windows
Mirrors are seeing common issues and experiences that you, the reader, can also identify with. Windows, on the other hand, are common issues and experiences that you, the reader, cannot identify with and so you are getting a glimpse of an alternate experience and point of view. Watch Renee Watson, author of many novels in our classroom library, share her poem “Where You From?” Think to yourself as you listen about those mirrors and windows.
What did you notice? Some mirrors for me were being raised by a single mother, rarely getting new clothes but plenty of hand-me-downs, having to make a dollar stretch a long way. A couple windows for me would be living on that side of town or being asked if my hair is real.
Personal and Social Identities
Another thing we can do is to examine how writers include their personal and social identities in their writing.
Look closely at the text, what do you see in just a small chunk of the text?
Writers bring their full selves to the page. When we examine writing as readers with these lenses in mind, we can see it and its value. When we work with our writers we want to provide the space for them to do the same kind of work. Even if it’s not a personal narrative or memoir piece, writers can bring the characters they create to life with personal and social identities or use them to strengthen their point-of-view and perspective in informational and argument pieces.