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As I think about teaching writing in my classroom, my own writing experiences rarely stray far from my thoughts. As an adult writer, I've never been fond of writing about someone else's topic. In fact, I'm really quite bad at it. In most cases, my writing juices simply dry up, and I'm lucky if my pencil squeezes out a complete sentence. True story. Even though I'm 35 years older than my students, we're really not all that different in some ways. (Yeah, that's hard to admit.) I think they might be more adaptable than I am, and most of them can grow accustomed to writing about supplied topics when that's what they're consistently fed, but I don't believe they learn where writing actually originates. They don't learn that it comes from their "own cherished bits of life" instead of an outside source. Their very own lives are worthy of sharing. If they write more about others' topics than their own, I'm afraid they won't make that discovery.
"When we help children know that their lives do matter, we are teaching writing." Lucy Calkins, The Art of Teaching Writing 16.
"Often our first goal is to fill these youngsters with a sense of 'I've got so much to say' and 'My life is full of possible stories.'" Lucy Calkins, The Art of Teaching Writing 27.
When I watch them choose their own topics and lives as the subject of their writing day after day, I can't help but think that they feel very much in control and empowered. Isn't that part of what writing is all about?