Margin Notes



The first weeks of writing workshop are filled with establishing daily routines, getting to know our students as writers, setting up writer’s notebooks and supporting students in generating topics that they might want to write about. In Anne Elliott and Mary Lynch’s newest professional resource, Cultivating Writers, they share a neat activity to show student writers “…that their neighborhood, community, city, country, and world are all sources of writing potential.” The activity is called Destination Known/Unknown.

Using the template shown below, follow/model the following:

  1. Show students that the center represents the location closest to where they live (i.e neighborhood) and subsequent circles moving outward represent increasing distances from their home: community, city, country, world.
  2. In the innermost circle, model for students how to generate places in their neighborhood they enjoy going to and are linked to a memory; e.g, local park, hockey arena, skate park, local diner, variety store, etc.
  3. Have students generate ideas for other destinations. Whether students have first-hand knowledge and experience traveling to a particular destination or need time to investigate and research a dream location, writing about a place opens up a world of endless landscapes and adventures.
  4. Once students have generated ideas for each circle, have them share some of the locales and tell the class about an adventure they had there, or an adventure they dream of having.

This activity will surely generate some great writing topics, but activities like these do so much more. They connect student’s writing to their world outside of school, they let us better know our students, and they build an authentic writing community with the sharing of ideas.

This is just one activity from this amazing resource, and we recommend Cultivating Writers to every teacher of writing who believes as these authors do that: “We have the responsibility, the obligation, and the duty to create an environment in which kids flourish into writers who have the skill and the will.”

Here is the template: