I’ve been observing one of my students’ writing with interest since the beginning of the year. J is a young man who arrived from Puerto Rico last spring with a whole lot to say…in Spanish. He is a fireball of excitement and ideas, and it came as no surprise that his English language skills grew at lightning speed. His enormous smile, constant chatter, and enthusiasm for…well, everything define his presence in our classroom.
Except writing. His enthusiasm for writing is muted a bit by his struggle to get his many ideas on paper. He is battling his still-somewhat limited control over English, his waterfall of ideas that must be expressed, and the fact that his pencil doesn’t move easily across the paper. So it goes without saying that Writing Workshop isn’t the brightest spot in his day.
In the beginning of the year, it was a triumph to get one simple sentence on paper from J. As he learned to use the word wall and tried to slow down his runaway thoughts, he added more and more to his paper.
Then came his Spanish phase. He thought for some time that it might be easier to write in Spanish. His enthusiasm for writing sparked again, and he started many new pieces. But then those pieces stalled out as he struggled to find the Spanish words he wanted to use. He was confused to find that it felt just as difficult to express himself in Spanish as it was in English.
Now J is finding a new balance by writing in both English and Spanish. He is experimenting with words and trying his best to think, speak, and write what he wants to say. He is using tools on the computer and in books. He is finding a bit of success on paper, but the most dramatic change is coming in his confidence and his ability to take risks in his writing. He is chasing the goal of writing “long and strong”, and he is determined to make it happen.
He might be the bravest writer in the room.