“To Sasha from A.V. Start writing!”

This is another short ELT post of today, inspired by the original short post by Kevin Stein and his mention of Sandy Millin.

I read Sandy’s Writing journals with students in November 2013 and I liked it very much, like so many of the things she writes about. I also remembered that I attended the session where this idea came from together with Sandy:) And I had it [idea] in my notes all the time, so I was happy to be re-inspired for some action.

Unsurprisingly, my university students, Physics majors, are not at all all keen on writing, that’s why my choice was a teenage girl I teach. She’s dreaming of becoming a journalist, writes short stories and articles in Russian and her English is, well, unsure. In a certain way she reminds me of myself in my teen age.

And because it’s a short post, here’s the end of the story: I presented her a notebook for her birthday and wrote a message for her in it with some questions she’d naturally wish to reply to. So she did, and wrote 3 pages, and asked me questions. And so the story goes on… Mistakes? There were many. I decided not to correct them, yet. You may think/ say it’s my teacher responsibility and what kind of teaching that is.. But for now I’m watching the girl’s confidence appear and grow strong. I see her notes on my messages (translation of words she didn’t know), I see it takes her time to write, she has all the time she needs and then I read her “letter” and catch a phrase or grammar pattern I’d used in my previous message.



That’s the story. I was thinking of us being connected teachers. Let’s remember to keep this type of connection alive, too.

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12 thoughts on ““To Sasha from A.V. Start writing!”

  1. Sandy Millin says:

    So happy that I managed to jog your memory! It was a fascinating talk, and ir sat at the back of my head for a while. Glad you’ve got a student who’s enjoying it. I’ve just started using a journal with a 17-year-old girl, and i hope it will be much like your experience 🙂
    Long live connections!

    • annloseva says:

      Fascinating indeed, and it just made me remember of all the notes I was taking then and have been taking ever since. How much do I get to use them? While some I do, others may stay undeservedly forgotten. So thanks, Sandy:)
      Good luck with your student!
      And here’s to connections that will live!

  2. Wow thanks for sharing this story. I think building a student’s confidence in writing is a more than fair trade for accuracy. I give my classes 5 minute free-writing tasks every day – as we wait for the stragglers – and don’t make any corrections at all but they respond to each other’s writing. They enjoy having a non-teacher audience and reading each other’s responses and I think that connection is another important one. There are other times to focus on accuracy.

    • annloseva says:

      Anne, more than just a thanks for this comment! Waiting for stragglers is what happens when I have early morning lessons, and I want to try your way to deal with it. It sounds great to me! And I believe even Physics majors will enjoy 5-7 minute writing, I’m sure of that. So how do you set it up?

      • Well, I give them a topic that they will be interested in (sometimes I ask them to give me a topic and sometimes I just pick something I know they’ll have a lot to say on – today was “school uniforms”). Then I give them 1 minute to think. Then I tell them they have to write without stopping for 5 minutes and they can’t use erasers or dictionaries or ask for words. They can just leave a blank if they don’t remember a word. The purpose of the activity is for fluency in writing and helping them to think quickly. After the five minutes are up, they can have another minute to reread and find the words they’d left blank and make any corrections they want. Then they share it in small groups and write comments for each other. I asked my students to limit their comments to the content, not the writing style or accuracy. While they’re sharing, I go around and take a look at what they’ve done. It would be better if they had separate notebooks for this that I could just collect from them once in a while, but that’s now how our classes work.

      • annloseva says:

        Perfect. Thanks for this detailed write-up. I’ll definitely do it as soon as our classes start in February.
        Now I’m really happy I wrote this post)))

        And maybe it’s something for #flashmobELT?…not sure, but just maybe. I’d do it if I asked you for a random activity before a class and you told me about it.

  3. nataneva says:

    Thanks for sharing your ideas! I’ll definitely try some of them with my students. I am sure it can motivate them to write.

  4. Josette says:

    My dear, have you watched the movie Freedom Writers? It inspired me to do a dialogue journal (I think basically what you’re doing) with my teacher-trainees for my first two years in the program. Responding to 40 people was challenging, and so I decided to stop, but it was so meaningful for all of us. I learned so much about everyone and I think it really helped them find their confidence.

    Here is the trailer to the movie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhXMJlm852A And you I just found a TED talk by Erin Gruwell that I’m going to check out now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDq9o9j3-CU . I also have her diary. Wow, I just realized I need to add this to my list of books. 🙂

    And now that I read Anne’s idea, I may have just been inspired to start it up again. 5 min free writing? Why not? 🙂 Thank you ladies!

    Love to Sasha!

    • annloseva says:

      I couldn’t remember watching it by the title but now that I”ve checked the trailer I definitely remember the stand on the line scene and that it did make an impression on me some day, even if I didn’t get to see the whole movie. Thanks, Josette, I have my night-time watching sorted for today!
      And the TED talk – amazing. Please add the diary to your list of books!

      This is a lot of inspiration indeed, because every one of you cares. So thank you.

      P.S. Sasha is an amazing girl and almost every class with her is worth a story to be written. I’ll try to be more consistent in putting my notes on our classes to this blog..try)

  5. […] in this class. Unfortunately, I cannot recollect which magazine it was. Later Sandy Millin and Ann Loseva added enthusiasm to foster journal writing in my […]

  6. […] help me turn my many drafts into actual paragraphs some day. For now, here’s this sequel to the post from a year ago. I recommend you read it first, it’s short, light and will entertain you with three […]

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