The prize for my latest writing contest is the threat of tears and possible humiliation. No wonder my students are writing up a storm.

It’s that time of year again when I encourage my students to make me cry.

Parents and teachers often ask me about how my students so consistently fall in love with writing. The answer to this question could probably fill a book, but here is one tiny example:

Each week I sponsor one or more writing contests in my classroom. I choose the topics for these contests, and a panel of three independent, anonymous judges (usually teachers and former students) determine the winner. There is a standard prize for every contest, consisting of a certificate of achievement, a privilege of some kind for the following week, and the winner’s name added to a plaque of previous winners that is displayed in the classroom forever.

But sometimes I vary the prizes.

There was a time when I would read Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog to my students, but after finding myself unable to get through the final pages of the book a few years ago because I was in tears, I ask my students read it silently now.


Whenever I cry during the reading of a book, my kids never let me hear the end of it, so it is to be avoided whenever possible.

Inspired by the ending of Love That Dog, this week’s contest requires students to write a piece that will make me cry. Poem, story, song… whatever they want. 

Here are the rules: 

  1. I agree to read every contest entry aloud to the class while being recorded to video. 
  2. If I cry, get choked up, become verklempt, or produce even a single tear during the reading of the piece, I will post the video of my reading to YouTube with the title “Big Baby Grown Up Cries Like A Big Baby” and credit the student for his or her achievement.

In the four years that I have run this contest, no student has made me cry yet.

Since announcing this contest yesterday, the kids have been working feverishly. Some have even begun researching me online in order to find my “weak spot.”

This is one tiny example of why my students love to write:

I give them good reason to write. I make it profitable and fun.