I Got Nothin’

My readers do a lot of writing in journals. When they finish reading they are not given a set of questions to answer, rather I ask them to write about what they were thinking while they read. I initially want to see what they think free from my agenda about what I feel was important. From there, I’ll interject probing questions if their response is lacking important events or information. Some students embrace the journal responses effortlessly. Others, not so much.

I will always remember Bode and the time he struggled with his response. We read the text together and my readers started their response, but not Bode. The conversation unfolded like this:

Me: Smiling at Bode said: “Go ahead and get started on your response. Everyone else is writing away.”

Bode: Looking at me with a scorned face said: “I got nothin…”

Me: Taking a deep breath, raising my eyebrows in a perfect arch, and opening my eyes wide said: “What do you mean you don’t have anything to write? We read the story together.”

Bode: Mumbling now said: “I got nothin…”

Me: Taking another deep breath: “Certainly, you know something.  Just start with what you know. Let’s make something out of nothing.”

Bode: “The characters are Mark and Jordan and they are competing in a swimming race.”

Me: Putting on my happy teacher face said: “See you got somethin so go ahead and write.”

Bode: Looking at me with a grin, his pencil hit the paper and he wrote away. “Thanks,” is all he said.

For some reason that phrase “I got nothin'” has stuck with me. Most recently it sneaks up on me when I’m am writing. I got nothin’, I tell myself, nothin’ to write.

And then I remember Bode and his mumbles.  And I remember me coaching him to just write what he does know. And I remember me telling him he has something.

So today when I sat down to write, I reminded myself that I needed to start with what I know, I needed to make those keys click, I need to turn my nothin’ into somethin’!

And I did!



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13 thoughts on “I Got Nothin’

  1. You certainly did, Amy! You captured this moment with your student so well. I especially liked the actions and descriptions that accompanied your dialogue– “taking another deep breath”, “putting on my happy teacher face”, etc. It enriched the scene. Also, that reminder “start with what you know” never loses its power. Well done!

  2. “I got nothin’,” Boy, do I remember that student. Many times I AM that student. This year’s SOL challenge has been just that–a challenge. So much chaos in our house this March with remodeling and college-aged grands visiting at spring break. Your post is a reminder to persist–you helped Bode and your post helps me!

  3. Every time we sit down to write we bring with us all the reading and writing we have done. The trick is to make those experiences work for us in that moment. Bode is your trigger, your reminder Amy, you captured the exchange between the two of you -a conversation between two readers/writers so clearly. Great illustration of a critical conversation. Our responsibility is to help the inexperienced writer find the key that unlocks their thinking.

  4. Sometimes all it takes is some gentle prodding whether it be a student or ourselves. Getting that first word of phrase dome on paper can open up the floodgates of ideas.

  5. That story right there is the reason why it is so important for teachers to write themselves! If for nothing else, to understand what it is like to stare at a blank piece of paper or computer screen.

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