Empowering Expression through Writing

Grade Level:  3rd Grade

Author: Cecilia E. Rivas (3rd Grade Teacher in Fabens ISD in Fabens, TX)

Purpose:  To empower students to express themselves liberally without fear of judgment and allow them to free their minds of everyday worries through writing, while simultaneously opening a window of consciousness for the teacher.  To allow the teacher to approach teaching in a more humanistic way.

Time Frame: Between 30-60 minutes

Materials: chart tablet, markers, writing paper, and pencils


  1. Wait for a time when most students don’t seem to be responding to your teaching. Look for signs of impatience such as fidgeting, disruption, no response to questions being asked, unfocused looks, etc.
  2. Stop the assignment and talk to students about the behavior you are observing, including body language. List all of these on a white chart tablet.
  3. Explain to students at least 3 reasons why students would act this way. List things such as: not interested in the lesson, lack of understanding, and make sure you include a worried mind
  4. Explain to students their right to say why they are acting the way they are without fear of you getting upset. Explain to them the importance of their engagement in the lesson and the purpose of your teaching.
  5. Give examples of reasons in your personal life which would keep you from concentrating or from being able to teach. Try to share experiences they might be able to relate to such as an argument, a sick family member, an angry loved one, a death of a loved one, etc.
  6. Tell students about the benefit of writing their worries down. It will help them put the worry on paper and off their minds, even if it’s temporary, and help them concentrate on the task at hand. Talk to them about trust and let them know they can share anything with you and you will not tell anyone unless it places danger to them.
  7. Pass out a 2 blank sheets of paper and tell them to write everything that is on their mind at that moment and they can illustrate if they want to. Tell them they do not have to write their names on their papers if they don’t want to. Tell them it will NOT be GRADED.
  8. Have them turn in their papers at a risk free place in the room away from the teacher and tell them you will read them later on that evening.
  9. Give them at least half an hour to do their assignment without any disruptions.
  10. Continue with your previous lesson or on another one.
  11. Don’t forget to address the letters the following day and express to students what you felt as you were reading them. Remind yourself of these letters every time you deliver a lesson.

Assessment:  The letters will serve as the assessment.  They are tangible proof of students’ feelings, worries and their thinking. These letters could give you a follow up opportunity for specific library books read aloud that connect to the struggles and topics that students can identify with. This can also give you great opportunity for hands on research.


Results: See the attached samples of my students’ writing! I’ve done this lesson 3 times and it always has powerful results.   These letters were a catalyst for change in the delivery of all my lessons for the rest of the year.  It reminded me that my students all have problems and emotions and feelings that I must address if my students are to be successful in my classroom… I sincerely hope this assignment will benefit you and your students as it did me and my students.

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