Friday, August 19, 2016

A Chair of Our Own: Encouraging Students to Share Their Writing

"So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters." 
--Virginia Woolf, "A Room of One's Own" 

Virginia Woolf required a room when it came to writing what she wished to write. In my ELA class, we've got the room part taken care of, but this year, I'm adding something else that I think is essential in encouraging my students to write their truth and to share their words: a chair.
This is not a fancy chair. It's plastic and cost me $15 (thanks, Target). 
I introduced our author's chair today for the first time. The concept is simple: when students share their writing, they get to sit in the author's chair to read their words to our class. Then, when they finish, students leave their mark--literally. I ask them to sign the chair. Some just add their name, but others went a step farther today and wrote a quote that inspires them and their writing.
12 years old and already has life figured out.
I mean, is there a better quote for writing? 

We finished up our first published piece today, so I knew today was the ideal time to break in the chair. Students had a few options for what to write: a six-word memoir, a play on "If I Were in Charge of the World" by Judith Viorst or their own version of "Whatif" by Shel Silverstein. These published pieces offered a little glimpse into my students' lives, and I was so excited to see the amount of creativity they put into their final products.

I was a little nervous about introducing the chair--sharing your writing (especially to a room of people you don't know very well yet!) is an act of bravery. I wondered whether I would be greeted with the proverbial crickets when I issued the invitation for the first time. Regardless of what happened, I knew I wouldn't force anyone to read their piece. Rather, I hoped to work to create a safe space where my students felt comfortable sharing their words eventually.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. I had kids lining up to take their turn in the chair! Part of the appeal was the chance to sign and leave their mark, but I also was thrilled that students felt comfortable enough to share their writing, especially given the personal nature of some of their pieces.

The chair in action! 

At the end of the year, I plan on giving the chair away. I've toyed around with a few ideas--a raffle or maybe giving it to the student who shares the most throughout the year, having the students vote to decide who deserves the chair the most--but I'm undecided as of right now.

I'm excited to use the author's chair this year to encourage my students to see themselves as writers. Every one of them has a story worth sharing, and I can't wait to hear it this year.


  1. What a creative idea! I'm betting your students will always remember "The Chair."

  2. I love the chair! I also like Donalyn Miller's idea in getting a directors chair for my future middle school ELA classroom. Students can use for presentations, book talks, etc.

  3. Love this idea. I started using it in elementary writers workshop and moved it with me when I went to high school. It's amazing how non- student -centered many high school classrooms are and how older student still respond to feeling special. Thanks for sharing.
    Dr Kendra Strange Shaffer