June 27, 2021: The Writing Marathon
I recently was reading about a way to help students get their creative juices flowing as writers. It is called the Writing Marathon. Teachers would take the time to plan out a “route” around the school, with stops planned to actually write. Hallways, auditoriums, the playground. Anywhere that will accommodate the student-writers. Armed with their notebooks and pencil and pens, they set off. At each “stop” the teacher reads a poem or essay or excerpt from a longer piece of writing, then poses an “Invitation to Write” or prompt. The teacher has a timer and the writing time is limited, based on the age of the students. During the actual writing time, the teacher is expected to write as well. When writing time is over, there is then 5 minutes for anyone to share if they would like. During the sharing time, people only listen- no commenting, no critiquing. Just listen.
These ideas came from the National Writing Project, a wonderful organization of teacher/writers. The resources and support materials were recently posted on the Write Now Teacher Studio, a place “Where teachers write, share, and talk shop about writing and the teaching of writing.”
As I was planning to use this with my students, I thought about how fun it would be for an adult writer’s group to implement. An adult group of writers would not be limited to a school campus the way the student group would be, so imagine the possibilities. It would take some planning for the facilitator, but think about how fun it would be.
- Select the location, route, and stops.
o If you are lucky enough to have access to multiple locations through walking, all the better. Maybe a downtown park, the lobby of the downtown library, and then maybe a history center. Or perhaps a coffee shop, then a bookstore, then a nature trail.
o Be sure each stop has space to accommodate the group, and if it is a business, plan to get permission ahead of time and to respect the space.
- For each stop, find a poem or piece of writing to plan to read to the group.
o Be sure the piece has a purpose or connection to the location. When I did this with my students, in the cafeteria, we were reading about food; in the library, about books; and on the playground, about friendship.
- Create an Invitation to Write for each stop.
o Similar to a prompt, this can be the starting point for writing. Remember though, this is just an invitation, and if someone has something totally different they would rather write about, that is perfectly alright. The important thing is that during the writing time, everyone is writing.
- Sharing time is judgement free.
o That means there is NO commenting or critiquing. Sharing is simply that- a chance to share and hear others’ words. And sharing is totally optional. After, we simple thank them for sharing.
As I get ready to also begin the Summer writing class I am teaching at the University, I am thinking of some fun ways to incorporate a Writing Marathon into one of our classes!