By Laureen Reynolds, SDE Educational Consultant
As I was thinking about what to entice you with in this post within the realm of writing, I was reviewing my posts over the last two years. I noticed that while we have had conversations about writing to accommodate the standards and, most recently, about including some technology into our writing plans, I neglected to start you at the beginning of writing.
What makes writing instruction fun? How do we engage students more readily? What kinds of things can we do to build their will to write and not just their skill? In an effort to answer a few of those questions and to keep your brains juicing about adjusting your own writing instruction, I want to start at the beginning with:
Some Things to Remember about Good Writing Instruction
Use Read-Alouds as Models: Make reading quality literature a part of your daily writing routine. Read-alouds can serve as models for the craft of writing, text features, author’s purpose, etc.
Model and Think Out Loud: In addition to sharing examples of good writing with your students, write with them, thinking out loud as you go.
Start on the First Day: If we want our students to be good writers they need to see and hear quality writing every day and they need to write themselves, every day.
Conversations Matter: Conversations that include recounting a story, giving opinions, and relaying information orally can prepare students for the writing to come.
Expose Them to New Text Types: Before asking students to create a new type of text, be sure to expose them to the format. Take time to point out the elements of the particular category and any text features, explaining why the author used each feature.
Write Across Disciplines: Don’t worry when you see “college and career readiness” in writing standards. Just be sure to plan for writing in your classroom to happen across content areas.
Product Options: Consider a wide spectrum of product options. Try not to limit them to traditional lined paper.
Weave Conventions In: It is best to weave instruction on mechanics and conventions into meaningful writing you model for students as opposed to teaching those concepts in isolation.
Write What You Know: Ask students to write about what they know. Always (almost) have students write within the context of things they are learning about, talking about, experiencing seasonally and personally, seeing on the news (if appropriate)…
Avoid Over-Managing: Try to avoid over-managing. Not every student needs to be writing exactly the same thing on the same day, on the same paper. Choice is a big motivator.
It Takes More Than a Day: Let your students know that they do not have to finish an entry in one day. They might want to go back to it after they have shared it with a small group of peers and change or add some things based on the conversation.
Write Where You Want: Let students write where they want to write, as long as they are writing. When we let students choose work spaces, they will choose one that works best for them and their learning preferences.
Give Them Great Tools: Make sure you supply your writers with a large variety of things to create with. Good writing doesn’t necessarily originate from a standard #2 pencil.
Resources They Can Use: Provide and teach the use of resources such as word walls, word banks, and thesauri.
Conferencing – A Wish & a Star: One of the best ways to grow good writers is to make time for individual writing conferences. Take the glow and grow approach: Start by celebrating one thing the writer did well, convention or craft, then, choose one and only one convention or craft to coach that student on.
Conferencing – Before the End: An additional thought here: There is no need to wait until a student thinks they are done with a piece before you conference.
Keeping Things Organized: Keep students organized with some kind of divided folder – topics/ideas, works in progress, pieces that need a conference, and writer’s resources.
Plan for Sharing: Make time for students to share writing, formally and informally. It doesn’t need to happen in whole group setting; as a matter of fact, it will be more valuable to more students if you divide them into small groups of three or four, place them around the room, and let each group member take turns sharing and taking questions or comments.
While I am sure that some of this might take you out of your comfort zone a bit, ask yourself this: Do I think my students get really excited about writing each day? If yes, can any of these ideas promote that feeling further? If no, can any of these ideas change that feeling?
Talk to you soon!