Let me be clear and say that I love teaching writing.
I love expressing myself with words in person and on paper.
I enjoy helping my kids learn high interest content and then transfer that knowledge to paper.
When I ask teachers what they like teaching…writing is the LAST thing that they say.
The answer to the question of ‘Why don’t you enjoy teaching writing’ should not be…because I’m not good at it. The reason for that is that it is patently FALSE.
As teachers you write for all different purposes. You write emails to INFORM parents and peers about things on a daily basis. You write PERSUASIVE notes to parents encouraging them to get things turned in on time, or to participate in their child’s learning. You scroll through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and share your OPINIONS when you feel the urge. You write every day! I would dare say that you write MORE than your students do! So, then…why? Why are so many teachers afraid that they are doing their students a disservice?
As I’ve been talking with teachers about this…the biggest reason for that is the fact that writing is subjective and nuanced. I would say that armed with a wee bit more confidence and your standards on lock…ANYONE can be a good writing teacher. Here are some things that any teacher can do to improve on their instruction.
|Want this progression guide for your classroom?
1. Break down your writing and language standards into smaller teachable bites.
2. Lead with mentor texts…lots of them.
3.Teach the structural elements of grammar systemically.
Scaffolding when you are teaching writing is really important. I teach in elementary, but all grade levels could benefit from spiraling basic skills for language and grammar. A refresher on handwriting expectations and basic sentence conventions before you start writing instruction in the year will get you on the right foot. Then you can move into basic sentence structures. You’ll be surprised at how much kids will write when they have a framework that they are fairly certain will work. Grammar and sentence structure lessons will get them there!
4. Provide your students with scaffolding such as organizers, personal word walls, and sample texts.
Students that are just getting exposed to writing will write if you support them. You can scaffold that back throughout the year, depending on the grade level. Spelling is a big impediment to writing at the primary level. Even the most independent kids will act like the world is coming to an end if you don’t spell a word for them. Tamp down on that anxiety by supporting them with every day spelling words and then, as necessary, content rich vocabulary.
5. Don’t grade every piece of writing they do.
So, to wrap up…Do not be discouraged! You would not allow your students to use self-talk that was destructive. You don’t allow kids to tell you that they can’t read or that they can’t do math. So, I’m not giving you that out either! Some of the best sports coaches are people who never played professionally. I humbly submit that some of the best writing teachers I’ve ever had are people who never published a book. They just got excited every time I got better and encouraged me to keep going.
So…you’ve got this.
Commit to learning how to improve and you will get it! 🙂 Pick one way that you want to get better and go from there. Teaching writing is a marathon. Not a sprint…your hard work will show at the end of the year! It always does…because you’re pretty awesome. 🙂
This spring and summer I’ll be sharing more thoughts on this in some writing trainings for SDE and I’m really excited about teaching other teachers! It’s going to be AMAZING!