First, convince them they ARE writers

(part one in a series)
This semester, I teach writing in pre-K on Wednesdays, and writing to college students on Fridays. I’m quickly discovering that the only real difference is the texts I use.

This is not my first rodeo with undergrads, so much of what I encountered there the first week was no surprise. Undergraduates come to me jaded and lacking confidence.

Writing as a way of life

I was everything in those stories that I thought I couldn’t be in real life: a sassy smart aleck with an uncanny ability to insult and/or shame all those who wronged me in any way. I also wrote letters to my mom (my frequent antagonist) and then tore them into tiny undetectable pieces and threw them away.  I suppose it was always about the process of writing for me, about how I felt after writing, not about publishing my end products.

Teaching point: writers don’t rely on punctuation to convey emotion

Good narrative writers (fiction and some types of nonfiction) don’t rely on punctuation to convey emotion. Good writers know that characters convey emotion. Their body language, their actions, and their speech reveal what they feel.

This is something I often teach: a string of exclamation points in your text is an invitation to go back to your writer’s notebook…It’s an invitation to excavate or dig deeper.