Monday, March 18, 2019

Classroom Environment for Writing

Where I write.

A week or so ago my friend commented on this post on Facebook from the group We Are Teachers and it popped up in my feed as a result. The page had shared it from an Instagram user named @misskteaches.

It immediately made me smile. One, I love Starbucks. Two, I love writing in coffee shops in general. Three, this strongly resembles my classroom.

Today my friend Sarah posted on Twitter about “coffee shop mode” and I immediately tweeted her back to see if this was what she was talking about:

Sarah posted back quickly that she had seen this post on We are Teachers and decided to try it out in her high school classroom today during workshop. That even in a chatty class, they got to work and she was able to conference.

I’m not surprised at all.

I currently teach seventh grade, but even in fifth I let kids use headphones and listen to music when they wrote. There are two benefits, as I see it. One, the classroom is absolutely quieter as a result of the majority of kids listening to music. This makes my job of conferring with kids so much easier. Two, some kids are far more productive this way. My students that struggle with focus typically do a lot better when music shuts out the distractions of the classroom.

There are downfalls, to be certain, of listening to music as you write. One, some of my students don’t have access to headphones. To solve that, I have a set of them in my room. However, typing this post made me realize that I need to add to that supply again. I never buy pricey headphones for our communal supply and they’ve fell apart over this year. Two, some of my kids don’t do well with music as they type. I’ve asked them to evaluate that for themselves. Some have found that they do better with instrumental music, one kid has found that he likes classical, and one student has found this nature channel on YouTube and listens to that while he types.

As for seating, I have never assigned seats in my middle school classroom. We have tables, couches, armchairs, standing desks, and bungee chairs. Kids pick where they are sitting each day and, often, during extended writing they might move if they need to.

What I’ve landed on is this, I absolutely have spaces I write better in than others. As I’ve written HERE and HERE, for some reason coffee shops make me far more productive than writing at home. But I often write with music, mine is a certain playlist of songs that remind me about the story I’m currently writing. It isn’t blaring, but it drowns out the noises around me at the coffee shop until that all becomes background noise and I can simply write.

I wanted my students to figure themselves out as writers too. Sure, some may make choices that are counterproductive at times, but overall I am going to respect them enough to give them the options and tell them what works well for me. Then I ask them to figure out what works best for them. When we talk about it regularly, when I ask them to reflect, they begin to figure themselves out as writers, and as students.

It works well for us.

Oh, and that line on the We Are Teachers post, "Don't be the guy that talks to the stranger?" One, I do love those people when I'm out. I have gotten more ideas for characters from them than anyone else. However, it is also something that stops my flow of writing, when I often need to finish. We talk about that too. And then I tell them about some of the people I've met and we all have a good laugh. There are unique individuals out there, that is for certain. That, and eavesdropping at the coffee shop is great for the creative process, just saying. This is where the kids swear I have developed the ability to hear anything they say across the classroom.

What about you? How do you write best? Do you need certain conditions to write? To read? Share with us!

Have a fabulous Monday,