Discovery, Ideas, and the Writer

“Before the writing comes the writer” -Kelsey Corter

“We haven’t had journal workshop in a while.”  Jack said as we passed in the hallway.  “No, Jack we haven’t.  Maybe you can ask your teacher to have a Journal Workshop.

Last year, Jack was in first grade.  I worked with his classroom teacher every Friday afternoon to “lead” a Journal Workshop.  It was a Soft End to the day, to the week.

I also had the privilege to work with a 5th grade teacher last year.  Every Friday morning started with a Journal Workshop.  It was a Soft Start to start the last day of the week.

This year, I’ve ad the good fortune to work with a fourth grade teacher every Thursday morning. It is a soft start to the day.  I no longer call it Journal Workshop, but Journal Soft Start.

I first heard of a Soft Start from Kelsey Corter, A Soft Start to Writing Workshop.  In her post, Kelsey writes, “Before engaging in meaningful, purposeful, true writing, children need to see themselves as writers who can.”  I think writers need space and time to not only see themselves as writers who can, they need to hear the thoughts, ideas, stories, and images inside them that make them a writer.img_1985


During Journal Soft Start on Thursday mornings, with the help of Invitations, (INSERT IMAGE) I have seen children discover ideas and words.  I have seen writers produce incredibly unique thinking that I can only believe feeds them as writers.

Last week, T chose Word of the Day #DWHabit – Sky


Now, T, a somewhat reserved writer in Writing Workshop demonstrates the depth of his idea and thinking with this carefully worded and drawn Journal Page(s).  The simple exchange captures the affirmation from air traffic control and the excitement of taking off. It leaves me wondering how, if, he could take this work and bring it into the Writing Workshop where he could continue to play as he learns about elaboration, craft and genre.

A, a confident and well versed writer.  She’s the kind of writer who takes a mini-lesson and runs with it.  She’s the kind of writer who can dive into any genre.  This week and last week, A chose Word of the Day and found herself playing with rhyme and sillies on her Journal Page.


Last week, I asked her if she was channeling her inner Shel Silverstein.  “Who?”  she asked.  I went to the library and pulled out one of his books of poetry.  When she saw the cover, she recognized it.  She opened it up and began to compare her writing to that of Shel Silverstein.  This week, I asked her if she planned on writing in the same style as last week.  She looked up at me and said, “At first I was thinking, I was thinking about what you can see when you look at the sky.  But then I realized everyone sees different things so I went funny and began to play.”  I love the meandering mind that A let run free this week in Journal Pages.  Sometimes a writer needs that, needs to just run free and see where the words and ideas take them.

Writing isn’t always about the writing.  It’s about the thinking.  It’s about the writer connecting with his her thoughts. Once the writer connects, then the writing can come.

This is a habit we must nurture in our classrooms, in our schools, if we believe in teaching the writer.


9 thoughts on “Discovery, Ideas, and the Writer”

  1. I like that this feels like play because kids learn from playing. The choice is also important. It feels safe because there isn’t expectation, other than to be a writer. Growing writers is a lovely job to have.


  2. Writing isn’t always about the writing. It’s about the thinking. Beautiful. I was dreaming that I could find a teacher to try this out. I’m not sure I have a good idea about getting it started but it’s on my wish list now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so agree with so much of this – writing as thinking, being a writer, playing with writing. I also like the way this student talks about the writing. I think I need some soft start writing in my life. I need to play and relax with my writing a bit more.


  4. “Writing is about thinking,” so true…it is not about the mini lesson…it is not about the revision….it is about thinking….


  5. I love this post so much, Dawn! I’ve started soft ends this year as well, and I’m finding them equally as important. You’re inspiring me to provide these blank spiral bound books as an option. I love the invitations you’re providing too. Most of all, I think it’s amazing how much you know these kids as writers, in WW and beyond. Thanks for sharing!


  6. Thank you so much for sharing this post! Can you talk about what this looks like for first graders? I would love to do this as a soft end to our week. How do you introduce it?


    1. Hi Patricia! I did this work with first graders last year! The structure is the same as you see here! The thinking that goes into copying and art card, or imagining the Word of the Day is amazing no matter the age! I always remember that pictures ARE writing, I always reminded children that it’s not about making a perfect picture, it’s about the thinking AND there is not right or wrong in the writing – it’s just your thinking, your playing with writing – because that’s what writers do!


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