Just write intensely every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. ~ Ray Bradbury
Hopefully, all of my students are reading and writing at home every day, on the weekends, in the car, and everywhere in between. This is an important habit to develop, and second language learners really must commit to daily reading and writing in English in order to improve their language acquisition skills.
"As writers, we learn most of what we know just by watching the pros, don't we?" ~John R. Trimble
Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle by yourself with no assistance? Many of us do, but that moment required days and days of practice. I remember my bike having training wheels which taught me balance, helping me to gain confidence in my riding ability. The writing workshop approach to writing works much the same way as those training wheels. Students are told to "read like writers" and asked to notice the way good writers write, to find words, phrases, sentences they like, phrases that appeal to them for any reason. We look at models of good sentences, identifying the characteristics, the way certain writers use language, and we examine sentence patterns. Learning to notice good writing is like climbing onto a bicycle with training wheels. We know or recognize good writing - riding - when we see it. We know how it looks.
Read this sentence from one of my favorite novels:
"I thought about something Rahim Khan had said just before he hung up... There is a way to be good again." Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
At first glance I notice the sentence pattern: Subject (I) Verb (thought) - followed by a prepositional phrase and even a dependent clause (before he hung up). I also notice the use of the ellipsis...which happens to be one of my favorite punctuation marks. The ellipsis...it makes you think...it takes the reader on an intellectual stroll...it keeps the reader thinking about something yet to be...very different from a period. A period simply ends the entire sentence. Stops it. Right there. Done. ~ But the ellipsis...the ellipsis keeps the thought line moving..."There is a way to be good again." This is "noticing" good writing.
And now we are ready to try it. Like riding the bicycle with training wheels, we model it.
The model sentence: "I thought about something Rahim Khan had said just before he hung up... There is a way to be good again." - Subject + Verb + Prepositional Phrase + Dependent Clause + Ellipsis + Independent Clause.
To model this sentence, I might say or write: She thought about something the old man had said just after he climbed into the boat...The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.
~ And we continue this practice of finding good sentences and modeling them, changing them to convey our own thoughts about a topic, until writing with this rhythm, a sort of balance, becomes as natural as riding a bicycle. As students continue reading every day, reading their library books, reading newspaper and magazine articles, reading descriptions on a menu, movie reviews, travel blogs, they should be noticing sentences they wish to model. I invite you to do this with them. Keep a journal or use digital notes to capture beautiful sentences. Then write your own. Play with the language and find something stunning to say! There are no rules...just write.