Try a Thinking 13!
A central belief in my classroom is “Writing is Thinking.” We understand that writers must think carefully, and the more we think like a writer, the more successful we will be. A couple of times per week we would have a Thinking 13. This is a time when we write in our writing folders or notebooks – no talking allowed, only thinking and writing. Students may write new pieces or add to old ones, with illustrations happening at another time. I have found that 13 minutes is just enough time to get settled and compose for a solid 10 minutes. It’s amazing to look around and see students actively engaged in their work in a quiet environment that promotes thoughtful expression. Some of my students’ best writing comes out of our time spent in a Thinking 13. Although students may not talk, they are encouraged to use the environment as a tool for writing, as we always do. Students may leave their seats to use the word wall, refer to a book, sharpen their pencil, whatever is needed to support the writing process (within reason of course!).
Besides providing a time to write, the Thinking 13 has two other important components. At the conclusion of the Thinking 13 we have an author’s chair sharing time where many students will have the opportunity to read their work. Pieces do not have to be complete in order to be shared with the class. Often, students may have only part of a story written, or sometimes just a lead is shared. Students know that during our author’s chair they have the opportunity to read for a captive audience, to ask the class for help with writing ideas, and to get valuable feedback in a supportive environment. Every attempt is celebrated in the author’s chair, and I point out at least one strength in each student’s piece.
But perhaps the most powerful portion of the Thinking 13 is that while the students write, the teacher writes too! I have a writing folder or notebook that is identical to those of my students, and I use it to compose my own pieces. I always share my work during author’s chair, and use this time to model great writing. My students are always captivated by my writing pieces, no matter how mundane they seem to me. I think it’s because they want to get to know me a bit better. My students already recognize that the writer is more important than the writing.
Thinking 13’s are just one way to build stamina in your writers and help them improve in other important ways. Give Thinking 13 a try. You’ll be amazed at the results!