18 boys. 18 boys and 10 girls. Sometimes I think those boys were on a mission to drive me insane. Other times, I thanked god (and my mom) for my two brothers. (Who had long ago accustomed me to the symphony of farts, burps, and other inane humor that is so attractive to the 10-ish year old boy.)
I gave my fifth graders cool, empty notebooks at the beginning of the year. Wanting to distinguish them from our writing class notebooks (which were to be for class notes and such), I called them their writer's journals. They were for whatever they wanted - to explore themselves as writers. My only rule was really that it needed to have writing in it. (Illustrations to accompany writing, yes; all illustration and no writing, no.)
The motivation behind this was really two-fold. One, I needed something for my early finishers to work on that didn't involve much work on my part. Two, I wanted room to try to fit in the kinds of writing that weren't in the plan for the year (as a long-term sub, I was trying to follow the plan for the most part).
At various times throughout the year, these notebooks got my kids in some degree of trouble. Reading Ralph Fletcher's Boy Writers now, it's all coming screeching back through my memory with the kind of clarity that only ever seems to appear in retrospect. One boy's (very incredible) comic, depicting some kind of violence and/or guns; albeit with animal characters and a legit plotline. Mostly stories and comics that involved violence.
It's trickier than I thought, figuring out ways to help my boy writers grow without them getting sent to the guidance counselor.