Stepping into the Margins

The Art of Teacher(less) Composing


  • Sarah J. Donovan Oklahoma State University



low stakes writing, writing workshop, writing instruction, reflection, assessment, freewriting


A junior high teacher designed a writing class around freewriting with a series of routines that emphasize writer agency and a culture of support. This article chronicles how one teacher learned to believe in the value of freewriting as the core curriculum of her writing class. The author presents practices that evolved from Peter Elbow's conception of freewriting, writing-related artifacts that support the development of a writing identity, and what a semester of freewriting suggests about the role of the teacher in a writing class.

Author Biography

  • Sarah J. Donovan, Oklahoma State University

    Sarah J. Donovan, Ph.D., is a former junior high language arts teacher of fifteen years and an Assistant Professor of Secondary English Education at Oklahoma State University. She wrote Genocide Literature in Middle and Secondary Classrooms (2016) and the young adult novel, Alone Together (2018). She hosts a monthly 5-day writing challenge for teachers, by teachers on her blog, Ethical ELA, that also includes resources for secondary teachers. Her research focuses on inclusive curriculum and ethical methods of instruction. She can be reached at






Practitioner Pieces