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Brag Wall

I’ve been using the book Teaching for Joy and Justice as a resource for writing and community-building in my class, and will probably share some thoughts about it here eventually. I was thinking about the author’s use of read-arounds (which I started last week!) as well as the use of graffiti walls and realized I could combine both strategies for a quick, easy way to get students pumped about their writing. Here’s the result:

This was the first day of using the brag wall. Two weeks later, it’s almost covered!
Most students did sign their writing, but I’ve blurred out their names in the picture.

I thought of this in the car one day and had a good long self-laugh about that terrible title. Then I used voice-to-text on my phone to record a reminder of my own cleverness so I wouldn’t forget… probably not the proudest moment of my life :)

Brag wall rules:

A teacher or a classmate must suggest that you share something you wrote – no self-nominating!

You can choose not to share your work. If you do post something, you can sign it, initial it, or leave it anonymous.

You can use other people’s “brags” for inspiration, but never steal their words!

I’ve found that most students are excited about the opportunity to post their writing, even if they don’t sign their names. I’ve had students come up and ask me to read their work so they can find out what to post, and it’s a great way to encourage them to share their work with classmates as well, because if they want to post something they have to convince someone else to recommend it first. When I do journal checks, I try to highlight one or two words/phrases for them to post, and they don’t let me forget to give them time to post! If we end up with a few minutes of down time at the end of class, students often wander over to the wall to read each other’s writing.

I have several objectives with this wall, and so far I think it’s been very successful:

Make students feel awesome about their writing. I might suggest they post a few lines from a poem, a funny comment in a journal entry, or even just a really cool word they used – it doesn’t have to be intentionally well-written or perfect (misspellings and poor grammar do NOT prevent kids from getting nominated for a brag).

Get students comfortable sharing their writing. I originally thought about letting them nominate their own work but decided against it to encourage them to let others read/hear what they have to say.

Encourage them to give each other positive feedback. Knowing someone’s looking for the good in your work makes it less scary to share, and seeing your peers as talented writers plants the idea that maybe you’re a good writer, too!

Teach them that I’m not the sole authority on quality writing. Probably about half the brags posted on the wall were recommended by classmates, not me. I explained to students that I might not suggest a post every time I read their work because everyone has different taste in writing, and that’s why it’s good to have multiple people read it and give feedback. They can suggest my writing for the wall, too, and I try to write with them and ask for their opinions as often as possible.

We’ve been using the wall for about two weeks and it’s almost completely full. Whenever it fills up I plan to just add a layer of paper and start over again!