Saturday, June 22, 2019

Transforming My Writing for My Students

This summer, I took the time to reflect on what went well during the school year, and what I want to improve next year. I recently completed my 10th year of teaching, but my first year in a new district with new instructional expectations. Despite having a learning curve, I know I did my best to give every student in my class the education they each deserved.

In reading and math,  all of my students made significant improvement when comparing beginning of year and end of year benchmarks and assessments. While there are some lessons and activities in both that I want to tweak and make more effective, for the most part, I am satisfied with the growth my students and I were able to accomplish.

As for writing, that is a totally different subject (pun intended). I am far from satisfied with my student's growth, since there wasn't much overall. Writing was a struggle for many of my students, because I struggled to provide them with effective instruction. To be honest, I have struggled as a writing teacher for many years. Sadly, it has taken me this long to finally decide to do something about it.

The first step I have taken toward transforming my writing instruction has required me to change how I feel about myself and writing. This was a mental and a physical process.  I had to stop tell myself I wasn't good at writing. The truth was I had never really tried to write. It dawned on me that in order to teach writing well, I must write. So, I started writing. I started keeping a journal/notebook and putting forth the effort to write everyday. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a couple of opportunities on Twitter that helped to focus my purpose for writing (@TeachWriteEDU and #100DOSW19). I'm not sure I would have known where to start, otherwise.

Next, I started thinking about what I want my students to be able to do as writers. I realized that they needed opportunities to write., as journal, to reflect, to experiment with ideas, and to do it daily. So, I decided that every student will keep a writer's notebook, as I do. They will be encouraged to write about anything...interests, hobbies, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever.

Now, I am intelligent enough to know that a writer's notebook alone would not lead to the high-quality writing I am expecting from my future scholars.  No, that comes only with effective instruction. As I visualized what writing instruction would look like, I knew what I didn't want. I didn't want to continue with the cookie-cutter, everyone writes about the same topic in the same manner in which I model, instruction. I want my students to be able to write the way real writers and authors write.

Thankfully I found "The Writing Thief" by Ruth Culham tucked away on one of my bookshelves.  This gem has provided me with real and relevant mentor texts I can use to SHOW my students what good writing looks like and how they can take what an author has done and use it in their own writing pieces.

The final step, for now, is to practice for myself what I expect my scholars to do. Maybe by the end of this summer, I will be have become a writing master...well, maybe not. Hopefully, I will have at least improved enough to produce a few mentor pieces of my own.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Summer Firsts

So, a thing happened today. I created a blog using  Obviously, this is a first. By its very definition, create means to make something that has never been. I guess that's really the definition for invent, but as far as I'm concerned, I invented a blog that belongs to me.

Summer break has just gotten under way, since my last day of school was Wednesday, June 5. However, it has already been full of excitement and anticipation in this short period of time. 

First, I decided I would write during his summer... write something, anything... be a writer. A writer of ideas for now. Maybe books, later.

Next, I wrote a short piece about getting started as a writer. It was published in a blogspot for on June 10. At the same time, I have been writing/journaling daily for the #100DOSW10 (100 Days of Summer Writing).

Then, I registered for a virtual writing workshop for teachers via TeachWrite. This evening, I participated in my first workshop and wrote for an hour (never done that before), producing five journal-pages about "Hair". Apparently, I had a lot to say about that.

I think I'm going to stick with this writing thing. Set some goals and write everyday.