At the beginning of each school year, my students and I created a Writing Territories List.* I wanted them to begin the year by setting intentions for themselves, not as students, but as writers. I always created a Writing Territories list with them. I used my list to offer ideas and to share pieces of my life. They also enjoyed sharing their lists with our class, and the activity not only helped them begin to see themselves as writers, it helped us begin to build our classroom community. Our lists were a writing resource we added to throughout the year and used when new projects were introduced or when students didn’t know what to write about.
Even though I left traditional teaching four years ago, I continue to create Writing Territories Lists, and I offer the practice to my writing circles and to my children. It is a writing tool that can be used again and again, in the classroom and at home, and it can be a valuable practice for transitions (like school days turning to summer days). A Writing Territories List is a great way to encourage writing.
As spring slowly turns to summer, there might be time for writers to grab a notebook, find a hammock or treehouse, and delve into their story. Invite writers (beginning, reluctant, proficient) to create a Writing Territories List. When they see how much they could write about, maybe they’ll consider offering their words to the page.
Generating Ideas for A Writing Territories List
Invite writers to fill in topics, genres, and audiences they’d like to explore. These may be topics they know or are interested in learning more about. Below are some prompts to get them started.
What places do you love to visit? Where would you like to visit? What travel memories do you have?
Who have you had an adventure with? Who do you like to spend time with? Who has made in impact in your life?
Who could you tell a story about: Pets, Siblings, Teachers, Friends, Parents, Mentors? What stories do you love to tell?
What do you love? Hate? Wish? Wonder?
Generate a list of different types of writing and let them choose what interests them. Some examples might be: Memoir, Poem, Comic Book, Short Story, Letter, Review, Article, Journal, Email.
Create a list of all the people, places, and forums a writer could write to. Again, it’s important they choose who they want to write for. Maybe: Self, friend, parent, mentor, family member, teacher, class, community, peers, online.
A Writing Territories List allows writers to collect ideas, inspiration, and memories. It invites writers to set intentions- One day I might write about _______ or I’d like to try to write a _________. This type of list also gets writers thinking about what writing is and the many ways a writer can share a story or information. Writing can be pretty boring if a student only equates writing with writing a paragraph or essay. It is also no fun if writing is always tied to grades, time limits, and topics others assign.
Offer children a chance to brainstorm all the stories they might one day tell and all the ways they might like to share their words. It might just be the spark they need to start writing.
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*I was first introduced to a Writing Territories List in Nancie Atwell’s In the Middle. (Amazon Affiliate Link- costs you nothing extra and helps support this site. Thank you.)