The only sound in the room was the clacking of pencils hitting the paper as my students began to fill it with their minds' creations. I looked around the room; every head was bent down over their desk, each person in the room intently focused on the task at hand.
I had spent the first few minutes running from raised hand to raised hand. They were full of questions. Unfortunately, most questions were met with an apologetic "I'm sorry, I can't answer that." It wasn't because I didn't want to answer their questions. In fact, I had had to stop myself a couple of times; after all, answering questions was what I was there for. But the rules today were different. My students were taking their district writing assessment.
Watching them in this moment, hurriedly moving their pencils across their paper in an attempt to keep up with their minds, it struck me just how committed they were as writers. Fifteen minutes in and several had already gotten up to get another piece of paper. There hadn't been a single "I don't know what to write." It was clear that everyone, even my kiddos who struggle with conventions, knew what to write. There wasn't even the slightest hint of ADHD in the room.
These kids had come a long way. At the beginning of the year when they were asked to write a narrative, it was clear that many didn't know exactly what that even was. Now, my only concern was that they would have too much to say and wouldn't be able to finish in time. (The directions say the writing is untimed, but they have only two days to write. Yeah, I don't really get it either. Sounds like a time limit to me.)
When they are done, I know their stories won't be perfect. You are, after all, dealing with the imaginations of eight and nine year olds. But, man, are they confident writers! It is clear they know they have stories to tell and that there will be someone excited to read them.
Another hand went up. I walked over, prepared to recite my "I can't answer that" line. I could see that J had filled two sheets of paper, cramming a final line into the bottom margin.
"I'm finished. You said there was a limit to what we could write, right?" he asked.
"Oh, no. We have to finish these tomorrow, but there's no limit to the number of pages you can have," I assured him.
"Oh, phew!" he replied, and turned back to his piece of writing.
Which reminds me. I need to get more paper.