The Concept of Teaching Writing
As a teacher, one of the most difficult subjects to teach in my opinion, is writing. Students often find difficulty taking the thoughts they have in their heads and putting them down on paper. I struggled with the concept of teaching writing for many years. Then, I thought back to my own education and what I wrote as a kid. You see, I’ve always been a writer. I loved to read and I loved to write. I let my creativity and ideas come out on the page. This love came naturally to me, but it was fostered by my teachers.
My Writing Philosophy
After reflecting on my own practice, I thought, “what did my teachers do?” And there it was. A change in philosophy. I was no longer focused on the product, but on the process. I wanted to develop young authors who saw the importance of writing. I wanted them to recognize that writing is powerful. I still remember, so many years later, two lessons in writing taught by my own sixth grade teacher. What an impact she had! How could I instill memories like these in my own students?
The pieces of writing produced by my students are powerful. Their emotions, candid comments and imaginative ideas color page after page. How do I get them there? How does the magic begin?
I share with them my own love for writing. I tell them stories of reading my grandfather’s World War II journal and being transported to a time in his life I would otherwise not experience. I bring in cherished writing I have from my own childhood. I point out the beautiful words we read in books and challenge them to write like the acclaimed authors we so admire. Writing is powerful. Instill this simple message in your students and you won’t believe what they will do.
Before each writing lesson, I always create my own sample piece of writing. This sample serves as a model and can be used for future lessons.
Through think alouds and class discussions, I work through my process. Usually, I select a specific area of focus. Examples include: prewriting, adding vivid language, using peer edits to strengthen writing, making revisions, developing a strong conclusion. For example, if my focus was on prewriting, I might choose a topic and begin prewriting. I jot down ideas and then select a few to include in my introduction. I use a variety of graphic organizers to help plan. Some days I actually write the intro, other days we just brainstorm. Sometimes I use my pre-written piece of writing and talk to my students about how I got there.
Creating Successful Authors
My goal as a writing teacher is for my students to leave my classroom feeling like authors. Not just authors, but successful ones. As a result of our year together, students build their own innate writing toolboxes. The tools are all the concepts and strategies we have learned all year. It is not uncommon to see an actual tool box drawn on my whiteboard. The tools have labels like, “vivid verbs” and “figurative language.” We use our tools to build strong foundations of writing, just like a carpenter uses his tools to build strong foundations of buildings.
When creating your own writing tool boxes, there are many resources you can use. Are your students in need of writing ideas?
Try these prompt sticks. Want your students to add figurative language? Use these posters as a teaching tool. Are your students using standard, boring verbiage? Read this picture book and talk about the dramatic difference a verb can make.
When it comes to teaching writing, dig deep. Think about what inspires you. Share with your students. Passion is not something you can teach. It is, however, contagious. When your students see your eyes light up, when they hear the emotion in your voice, that is when the true journey of learning begins.