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.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, felt like you. Why was someone like me who was not a writer teaching students how to write. I found and took a Summer Writing Institute that changed my whole way of thinking and made be a better writing teacher for my students during my last 13 years of teaching.