Thursday, August 26

How do you teach writing?

A friend of mine asked me the other day how do you teach writing to your students?  What materials do you use?  I started to list the curriculum that my school uses and then, stopped.  Because she is a dear friend, I told her my secret. 

I don’t use the curriculum that the school provides.  The official “writing” book is really pretty and kid friendly, but it doesn’t do what I need it to do.  At the beginning of the year, I distribute the book and it sits in their desks until I take it back at the end of the year.  At least there is no wear-and-tear and the books are like new. 

I teach writing all day long and in every subject.  There isn’t a moment during the day that I’m not teaching students something about writing.  I saturate them with writing.  I expect them to write well and throughout the day.  Families know that if they get Mrs. Ehrlich, the students will learn to write.

From the very first day of school, they write.  Regardless of their age or what grade I’m teaching, I start at the beginning with paragraph construction.  I have a no-fail formula that makes writing concrete.  When I have the same class again (looping), the review makes them giggle.  They laugh at the simplicity of the lesson.  I expect students by the end of third grade to construct multi-paragraph essays.  I constantly build their stamina for writing. 

All day long, I model, and model and model.  Every moment is a chance for me to say something about subjects, predicates, complex sentences, linking verbs, helping verbs, and most importantly, paragraph construction.  My students know I love to write and laugh at my enthusiasm.  My goal is to make it contagious. Throwing writing into every lesson is innate and instinctual.  I try to develop “muscle memory” so it become automatic for them.  I make writing a priority and meet with students one-on-one and support, remediate, cajole, encourage, cheer lead, etc.!  Writing conferences are as important to me as reading conferences.

So, when my friend asked me how I teach persuasive, narrative, expository, descriptive, etc., I didn’t have a quick answer for her.  It’s all in my head.  And, I also change the way I teach these based on the needs of the students.  I have to differentiate - I don’t know how to do it any other way.  Then, I create detailed and unique rubrics that match each lesson.

My goal this year is to try to write about how I teach writing.  How do I write down on paper what I do so that I can share it?  Is this the ultimate contradiction? Do other teachers follow a teacher’s guide or create opportunities?  How do you teach writing?  I really want to know.
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