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Get Writing Ideas Moving with Scatter Pages

This post is written by Daven Carlson, a regular participant in the Teach Write Academy's Time to Write Online Workshop. Daven created the Scatter Page strategy as a way to help his students (and himself) unlock ideas and face down the blank page.

We’ve all been there as writers. That staring at the wide-open spaces of a blank page.

When I see my students struggling to come up with topics for writing, I can greatly empathize.

I myself have never found adequate success with what’s known as free-writing or linear journal writing. I realized that I need a strategy that is a bit more fluid, more spontaneous.

I need something that gets the pen moving immediately.

That’s how I came up with the idea for Scatter Pages.

A Scatter Page involves color, and lots of it.

It involves page-turning -- literally, writing on the page at any and all angles.

It involves blurbs, phrases, words, quotes, and doodles.

Perhaps most importantly, what Scatter Pages doesn’t involve is boundaries.

Rather, this brainstorming strategy gets things moving -- one’s pen, one’s page, and one’s ideas, all simultaneously.

I tell my 8th-graders that to gain the full potential of a Scatter Page, a writer must commit to placing the tip of that first brightly-colored pen to paper and not letting up for 15 to 20 minutes (pausing only long enough to grab a differently-colored pen and make contact again).

Since introducing Scatter Pages, I’ve noticed many of my students bringing in their own favorite pens or thin markers.

Some have gleefully shared with me details of their trip to the office supply store to get their own set of Inkjoy Gel Pens after salivating over my own 20-count collection in the classroom.

But most revealing is what some of my current 14-year-old writers have said about Scatter Pages:

  • “Scatter Pages turn the jumble of thoughts into something decipherable. Sometimes you have a general idea but you don't know the specifics, or maybe you just don't know what to do in general. Scatter Pages help organize my thoughts and ideas (especially since I'm more of a pictures person).”

  • “I find Scatter Page writing particularly useful when you have no idea what to write about. Putting random ideas that pop into your head on paper can spark topics that turn into whole stories.”

  • “Not only do Scatter Pages give you ideas for writing, but it's an amazing warm-up for students before they write and gets their brain ready to focus in class. It also is fun and can trick students who don't particularly like to write a chance to explore how fun and entertaining it can be. Plus, the colors are an extra bonus.”

My students continue to explore the possibilities of Scatter Pages as they are turned loose in class to write about what matters most to them.

It’s wonderful to walk among my students and witness how they are starting to put their own stamp on the strategy. Many are falling into this as their go-to writing tool, and it’s inspiring to see their ideas germinate and bloom.

Collectively, some of our writing pages might look unconventional, but we’re spinning paper and dropping ink, and we’ve found writing that literally moves us.

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