Time to Write: A Reader/Writer’s Inventory

This year has been an extraordinarily unique 15 months in the life of a public school teacher. Fifteen months sounds short; a year and 3 months has a more succinct ring–but however you’d choose to phrase it, every moment of that time has been spent on a slippery slope redefining what’s important, necessary, and relevant to teach. Far from a treatise on standards and testing, I have spent the year getting intimate with my students’ home lives and questioning every last thing I’ve taught for the past 26 years.

I tell you this because our patterns of thinking and operating are so ingrained in our lives–reading and writing lives included–that when a breath of fresh air blows through (frequently seen as a minor convenience or major disruption), we need to take full advantage of the moment to re-evaluate every last detail to the degree possible so that when things begin to move forward again, we’re not still operating from what worked before because we will no longer be living in that ‘before’.

This time of year in Room 209, we would be wrapping up the mind-stunting and anxiety-inducing season of state testing and looking forward to spending time decompressing, discussing, and reflecting on our year of reading writing. We would talk about how our writing has grown, how our words make us feel stronger and smarter, how we loved so-and-so’s story in September about their dog or cat or family, a story that’s stayed with us, our thrill of knowing the meaning of some literary term on the test we just finished, to which teacher we’re going to choose for our yearly thank-you letter (and why), and start getting excited about going outside during class to learn how to describe a dandelion by using our hands and noses instead of our abstract ideas. We would look back to the reader/writer’s inventory we took at the start of the year and revisited for a few brief moments over the course of the last nine months to see a real-life illustration of what personal growth feels like.

But this year there was no initial reader/writer’s inventory, no lengthy discussion of where we were as a reader/writer when we started ESL class, as the majority of students didn’t even have internet access until late October. These obstacles shouldn’t matter to us adults, however, as we can journal and explore our own growth through a reader/writer inventory of sorts of where our writing is right now in the moment. This version is a little more reflective and a little less reliant on the smiley face scale on my classroom Google Form, however 🙂 Perhaps you want to set aside time to delve into these questions when you have space, curiosity and a pencil.

A Reader/Writer Inventory: Questions for Reflection

  • How do you feel about yourself as a writer, right now?
  • How long have you felt that way?
  • How have you felt about your writing in the past? (a singular point in time, a collective, however you see it)
  • How do you feel about yourself as a reader, right now?
  • How long have you felt that way?
  • How have you felt about your reading in the past? (a singular point in time, a collective, phases, however you see it)
  • How does your reading inform your writing?
  • How does your writing inform your reading?
  • How could you improve your writing (output, process, editing–whatever matters to you most) going forward?
  • How could you improve your reading (frequency, topic, speed–whatever matters to you most) going forward?
  • How will you know your writing has improved?
  • How will you know your reading has improved?

If any of these feel especially inviting, perhaps that’s where you need to journal your thoughts in a more lengthy session. Allowing yourself to explore in reflection can only serve us better going forward.

How did this inventory surprise you? What did you discover? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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