Just Let Them Write

Royan Lee, a Grade 7 teacher in the York Region District School Board, constantly inspires with what he does in his classroom and what he shares online. The other night, just as I was heading to bed, I came across this post that Royan did on writing. He really made me think … so much so, that I barely slept that night.

I love to give students choices in writing, and I encourage “free writing” when I can, but I usually still include a number of different requirements as part of my writing activities. I rarely have students just “play” with writing. Since I do encourage, “play” in many other parts of my program, it seemed important that I encourage this for writing too.

Today, I changed my morning writing routine to a completely free write exercise. Students could write on any topic that they wanted, using any form that they wanted, and any tool that they wanted. All that I required was that they write. Here’s a short video of the results:


Important Note: When I said that this must because because of our focus on “letter writing,” I meant that students have been writing to other students in the class. They are doing lots with the different names of the students in the class. This is why I thought that they’d want to write lists and sentences including their friends’ names.


I love seeing how engaged each of the students were in their writing. All of them spent the entire time writing. They used resources around the classroom, including their dictionary and the word wall, to help them with spelling. More importantly, they took some risks in their writing. They had fun writing. They even edited their writing when they were done. It was great to see that the students loved to write. I’ll definitely be doing this type of activity again!

Thank you, Royan, for inspiring me to try something new. Have others attempted Royan’s “challenge” too? What were the results? I’d love to hear your stories!


8 thoughts on “Just Let Them Write

  1. Interesting you should write about this. This year the main focus of my writing program is allowing my students to just write. I am trying really hard to create authentic writers, not children who write for me. This has meant letting go a lot. So far I’m really pleased with the results. My students love to write and they are getting better and better each day. Some days they want to write on their blogs, other days they want to write in their “free write” notebooks, and other days they are writing on paper or creating little books or cards. I still teach many writing strategies to them as a whole class, and I also work with small groups and individual writers too. The biggest benefit of letting them dictate what they are going to write is that they are super motivated to write. There are still a few odd writing sessions where I dictate the topic, or form of writing I want, but these sessions are fewer and further apart. Reading “No More “I’m Done!” by Jennifer Jacobson really helped push me in this direction. I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet. I’m curious what your students thought of your little experiment with their writing.

    • Thanks for your comment, Karen, and for the recommendation too! I haven’t read the book, and I’ll definitely look into it. As for my students, they loved this “free write” opportunity. I usually let them have some choice of tools, but I tend to give a more general topic for them to write on. Usually I want to connect it to what we’re learning in other subjects too, but I definitely see the benefit of a “free write” time as well. I’m doing another “free write” time this morning, and I know that I’ll be incorporating more of these times into my program as well. When teaching beginning writers especially, it’s great to see them so motivated to write and so willing to take risks. I’m glad that you’re seeing this with your writers too!


  2. We have a lot of choice in the writing we do at Cardinal Heights. My approach is to teach certain skills and then I ask that students use their writing on the Commons to practise and hone these skills. So, for example, we have been focusing on using APES (answer, proof, extensions, summary) as a format to answer open response questions. We talk about the format and I deliver modelled, shared, and guided lessons as students are writing. It is a very reiterative process. What they write about is 100% their choice, so long as they are writing in an APES format (or it may be that we are working on paragraphs, or whatever). While I will provide a number of places they can access writing prompts in the event that they become stuck for what to write about, I encourage them to stimulate discussion amongst themselves, proposing questions and tackling issues that are of interest to them. They always have the choice, however, of what it is they can write about.

    What I find most fascinating and encouraging is that I have a great number of students who are writing constantly, without the need for me to require “x” number of blogs/week or month. In other words, their writing is becoming much more self directed and, almost invariably, the students employ the writing skills we learn in class without me asking at all. What could be better than having a student post a blog on a Saturday night without being asked to, using the learning they have acquired in class?

    • I completely agree with you, and I love it that my students are more and more motivated to write too! Thank you for sharing your experiences as well. I absolutely love reading your student blog posts in the Commons. Your students have taken blogging very seriously, and what they’ve produced is outstanding! They should really be applauded, and you should be too!

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Hi!
    I like your blog so much. We in Finland have been on focus, about our so goog education system. Well, I agree, our system is good and is getting good result allover. Anyway, PISA lives in it’s own world and we alla have so much to share. I find your classroom and your methods very inspiring.

    About writing then. I think the most important thing is to make writing meaningfull. Why should write to your teacher when it’s much easier to say it. When you write you must have an audience whose waiting to read what you have written. Blog with readers, class full of kids or anything. Not just for practice but to get your message out, loud and clear. And when you focus on message, you must nort be too hard on mistakes. Mistakes will fade away with more writing, whewn your audience tells youi that its easier to read, when there are spaces between words and letters are about on right places. Well, my english just an example on that. I have message, I want to say it, who cares about preposions!

    Thanks for your wonderful blog!I now and then tweet about your blogging (in Finnish), because you give us joy and a different point of view on the art of making learning meaningful and inspiring.

    • Wow Mikko! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad that you like my blog and find the posts useful. I completely agree with you about “writing” too.


  4. OMG. Thanks so much for giving me the honour of inspiring you. I can’t believe this class. I just watched the video and am amazed by your learning environment. Can you believe what we can do when we join powers online?

    • Thank you, Royan! Your comment just made my night! 🙂 I have a fantastic group of students, and I love how eager they are to learn and how willing they are to help each other too. If it wasn’t for amazing people such as yourself though, I wouldn’t do half of what I do right now. You’ve inspired me so much! An activity like the one I filmed here helps speak to the tremendous power of a PLN and just how much all of us can learn from each other.

      Thanks again!

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