How can you get students interested in writing or research? Establish writing territories.

Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation

—Dr. Samuel Watson

It used to be that I would often ask the writers who entered my classroom, “What do you want to write?”  Their most common response was, “I don’t know.”  The following prompts are meant to plant intellectual seeds that each writer might choose to grow.  During one of our first class sessions together, we make lists and talk about them.  Our conversation helps us add to our lists and we are all able to begin to think about what we might write.  I call our responses to these prompts “writing territories,” a phrase I first encountered in Nancie Atwell’s book In the Middle. She explains her own territories as “subjects I’ve written about or might like to, genres I’ve written in or would like to try, and audiences for whom I write….”(120).

Respond to these prompts and pause to discuss your answers.  What my fellow writer says might allow me to add to my list.

1. Make a list of topics you know something about.

2. List the main parts and/or roles in your life.  For example, I’m a teacher, a husband, a father, a runner, and much more.

3. Make a list of places you know well.

4. What is your major?  What do you hope to use it for?

5. Make a list of topics that you wish you knew more about.  Or, what are some classes you wish were offered and that you could take?

6. Do a sample schedule of your life.  Try out a school day, the weekend, summer, and a holiday.  At 8:00 a.m. you….  And then you…

7. List some political/social issues relevant to your life.

Following the creation of these lists, we can all choose to start writing:  tell us about one of these, use this list to begin a research project, or can you tell us a story that comes from one of these territories?

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You can get a PDF handout for this activity in the blue box on the lower right of my blog page.