As a teacher, I am continuously reflecting upon decisions to nudge students, whether nudging them to try something new, to take a deeper dive into something familiar, or to lift the quality of their work. We’ve been nudging students in the Sitka classroom to grow their writing muscles and stamina as they begin using writer’s notebooks as tools for capturing snippets of their worlds and thinking through writing. We’ve adopted a morning routine of Daily Page in their writer’s notebook.
In the words of Aimee Buckner, The point of this exercise is for students to take their trash out, to clear their minds… If a student has nothing to write about in the morning, chances are he or she won’t have anything to write about in a couple of hours either. So it’s okay to spend the morning writing about nothing on the daily page, as long as you’re ready to write something during writing workshop.
This is hard work and a shift in expectation from the past experiences of our current third graders. We have experienced push back and witnessed more than one student simply staring at a blank page for extended periods of time. While it’s natural to experience uncertainty and fatigue when doing something new, we also know how important it is to encourage children to simply get their pen to paper. And of course, as teachers, we’re continuously reflecting upon our decisions, how we’re communicating expectations to students, where we’re nudging and when we give space, etc. When on the outside our nudges appear to feel incredibly hard to some children, we ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing.
Today, we were reminded by a third-grade writer that just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s bad. After observing this particular writer very slowly writing a portion of the ABC’s for the first 10 minutes of daily page, we gave a nudge: we reminded her that the expectation was that pens are moving the whole time, building muscles and “taking out the trash.”
Only a few minutes after the nudge, those original painstaking ABC’s were followed by several sentences. The student who wrote them, approached me beaming with writer’s notebook in hand: “I found my rhythm! I just needed to go faster and it carried my pen across the page.”
What nudges are supporting you to find your rhythm these first few weeks and months of school?
It makes me wonder… How might we nudge ourselves as educators too? Even if the nudge feels incredibly hard?