Middle Level Resources - National Council of Teachers of English

Video 1: Why I Write

Jacqueline Woodson talks about why she writes, her process, and why it’s important for us all to share our words.


Journal or Discussion Prompt Suggestions:

  • What reasons did Jacqueline Woodson give for why she’s a writer? Have you wanted to write for any of the same reasons?
  • Why and when do you write?
  • What’s one thing you wish you could write about? Who would you want to read this writing? What would you want them to learn from you?


Related Writing Activities:


Why-I-Write Wall

Cover a large wall with a sheet of paper and write WHY I WRITE in the middle. Invite students to write their own responses to this prompt on the paper.


Writer’s Self Portrait

Invite students to draw a picture of themselves as writers. Ask them to show:

  • Where they write
  • What they are writing with
  • Invite them to annotate the picture with a thought bubble or margin notes to list all the things they like to write about

Video 2: Writing = Hope x Change

Jacqueline Woodson explains the “equation” that fuels her work and how it plays out in the books she writes. She reads an excerpt from Each Kindness and points to the moment of change in that story that propels it forward. She concludes with a call to action, inviting us all to tell our stories of hope and change.


Journal or Discussion Prompt Suggestions:

  • What does the equation Writing = Hope x Change mean to you?
  • Name a book or piece of writing that changed the way you think. What was the book or piece of writing about? How did it change your thinking, and why?
  • How can your writing change the way others think?
  • What’s the most important thing you’ve ever written? What was it about? Why was it important?


Related Writing Activities:


Bumper Stickers

Using the bumper sticker template, have students create an image with the equation on it. When they share their designs, ask them to explain what they hope someone reading the bumper sticker might think or do.


Selfie Quotes

Students can reflect on the power of their own words when they fill in the quote bubble on this template with their response to the statement, “my writing = hope x change because . . . ” Consider posting the quotes on a wall, or, if they have permission, have students take selfies with their quotes to share to the hashtag #WhyIWrite.

Video 3: What will your words change?

Jacqueline Woodson shares an excerpt from her most recent book Harbor Me, centered on a group of middle school students, and discusses how as writers we can create change by questioning the narrative we see around us and sharing the truth of our own stories.


Journal or Discussion Prompt Suggestions:

  • How might the words Jacqueline Woodson read from her book lead to change?
  • What’s something you want to change? Why?
  • How can writing help you make change?
  • Jacqueline Woodson talks about how writers need to “question the narrative” that society offers them. What does that mean to you? What narratives are you questioning?


Related Writing Activities:


Notes to Change a Day

Invite students to imagine that they just received a note in their locker on a day when they were feeling sad and upset. That note makes their day 100% better. What is written on that note? Next have them think about a friend, family member, or person in their community who could use such a note. Have them write and deliver that note. Consider inviting them to share what they have written aloud. You can use this handout for the letter if you want to tie it to the Write-In.


Things I Can Change Through Writing

Students brainstorm together or independently all the things they can change and then they reflect on when and how writing can help them make those changes. You can use this template or have students do this exercise in their own notebooks.