Writing can be a solitary experience. It is often just the writer and their words.
But it doesn’t have to be that way — and I would argue that it shouldn’t be that way.
Becoming a part of a tribe — a dedicated group that shares the same interests or focus and support in a safe, nurturing way — is what’s missing from the lives of many writers.
Take a minute to think about your student-writers. Who do they connect with while working on their writing? Who do they go to to ask questions or receive feedback? Who do they share their writing struggles with? Who holds them accountable?
Chances are — your answer is either “no one” or “me, the teacher.”
This is why I encourage you to think about introducing Writing Tribes into your classroom. Here are three reasons why you should:
Community: Writers don’t have to go it alone. A tribe offers a sense of belonging, connects writers to those with similar interests and makes writing a little less lonely. If students share their writing with their tribe, it broadens their audience and can instill a greater sense of purpose. Finally, with proper instruction and guidance, a tribe can offer the writer a sense of safety where they can try new things with their writing.
Support: A tribe offers encouragement and guidance, especially when the writer is just not feeling it. They can also offer feedback from a reader’s perspective. Tribes also offer accountability. If you know your tribe is counting on you, you tend to produce.
Ideas: We all know the feeling of being ’too close’ to a piece of writing. We miss things or take for granted that our reader knows whatever is in our mind, even though it doesn’t make it to the page. A tribe can make suggestions that the writer may not have thought of themselves. They are a great support for brainstorming and can help with goal setting too.
If you want to try to facilitate a Writing Tribe with your student-writers, I offer these suggestions:
Make participation voluntary to begin with. Not everyone is comfortable in working with a group right away.
Share what a Writing Tribe is and ask students to volunteer to be a part of the group if they think it is something that would help move them forward as a writer.
Consider having the tribe establish some expectations and norms. Let each student share what they need from the group and how this can be accomplished respectfully.
Let the groups decide how often they will meet. Will there be a check-in at the end of each day? Do they want to meet once-a-week? Can there be a virtual connection? (Google Docs or Voxer are great for this!)
Adult writers can benefit from a tribe too! If you are a teacher-writer or are looking to become one, I invite you to join the Teach Write Tribe on Facebook. Not only will you receive writing inspiration, we also have a daily check-in for accountability and offer the encouragement and support you crave. Join us!