Saturday, March 5, 2016

What do you want to be when you grow up?

   Slice of Life Challenge
      31 Days of Writing - Day 5

My grandson, Zeke, has always loved reading books and going to the library. A few years ago,
I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. "I want to be a librarian!" was his quick response. That sounded right. Why not get a job that would allow him to go to the library every day? What better place to be than a library filled with thousands and thousands of books? What a life!
I know that on any other day, he could give me a different response. But my heart sang that day.

Now, a few years later, if you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he will tell you that he wants to be a scientist. He loves reading all kinds of nonfiction books - books about space, deep sea animals, bugs and more.

Adults often ask young children what they want to be when they grow up. We enjoy some of their cute responses. "I want to be a fireman." "I want to be an astronaut." "I want to be a football player." "I want to be a teacher." So I am fine right now that Zeke wants to be a scientist. Whatever he becomes, I hope that he will be happy.

In the writing workshop, what can we do to help kids dream about being writers? 
   We can share wonderful books with them. 
   Focus on author studies.
   Surround them with great models for writing. 
   Help them develop the skills they need. 
   Confer with them.
   Build a mindset for being a writer.

Often it is in the very words we say to a child. Many years ago when I was teaching first grade, I had a student in my class who enjoyed writing. She had a wonderful way with words. She would often share her gems of writing and I would be so happy that she was finding life as a writer.  I made sure we had many models for writing in the classroom. One author we studied was Cynthia Rylant. We talked about her writing and how she used her words so well. This child was able to capture beautiful words in her writing even as a first grader.

I was conferring with her one day and after listening to something she wrote I made this remark,  “Your writing today is wonderful. You sound just like Cynthia Rylant." I didn’t set out that day to mention any such thing to her. But after she shared her writing with me, I wanted to give her some credibility and assurance that she was growing as a writer. I wanted to highlight the choice of words in her writing. A few days later, her mother told me that she came home that day and told her mom what I said. She mentioned to her mom that she wanted to be a writer someday. A few words that may have planted a mindset for her.

Unfortunately, I lost track of the student as she moved beyond elementary school. I don’t know if she ever pursued her writing as a career. But on that day, she was a writer and she dreamed about being a writer for the rest of her life.

It was a great reminder that what we say in a writing conference can be very powerful. When we leave each and every conference, we need to be ready to say something that will propel them forward. What we say to a child, what we offer them in support, can make all the  difference in the world. And maybe, just maybe, when we ask them what they want to be when they grow up, they will say, "I want to be a writer."


  1. Your words of encouragement work for grownups, too! When we are surrounded by supportive people (slicers!) we are brave about sharing our words. Happy to hear your grandson is a voracious reader!

  2. "A few words that may have planted a mindset for her." Yes, that's why conferencing is so important - we have a daily way to plant those seeds and nourish them.

  3. And so important to remember that what we say has a definite effect on our students. When we choose our words, we need to remember we are helping to support or change the mindset of a future writer, doctor, librarian, scientist.
    Love how you connect back to the importance of words and teaching.

  4. "I want to be a Librarian!" Tell your grandson I said, YAY, from a Librarian!

    Thank you for reminding me about the importance of conferencing as a way to plant those seeds.

  5. A wonderful reminder of the importance of our words in helping our students build a writing identity. Maybe someday you'll see that student's name on a book. Wouldn't that be something!

  6. Thoughtful blog thanks for posting