I don’t believe in scripted programs, graphic organizers, grammar worksheets, spelling tests, essays or book reports. Schools are dependent on these ways of teaching writing, because, it’s all we’ve been taught, it’s all we know or everyone else is doing it. I have used many, many methods to teach writing until I realized through a lot of research, trial and error and reading that teaching writing is pretty simple with the following:
I learned the structure from reading lots and lots about reading and writing workshop. I’ve read The Units of Study by Lucy Calkins grades K-2, 3-5 and 6 cover to cover. The Art of Teaching Writing transformed the way I teach. Many teachers find books about teaching writing daunting and I understand that. But what teachers don’t realize is that reading literature by experts such as Lucy Calkins, Nancie Atwell and Carl Anderson is like being a fly on the wall of the most effective classrooms in the world! You pick up the structure, philosophy and motivation to write, if you read for long enough (a chapter or two really). This is why I highly recommend teachers actually READ these books. Come on. You can make time for something that will absolutely transform you as a teacher.
When I learned about simulations and Project Based Learning I was hooked. Students should feel what they are doing is worthwhile, that it matters, that it will not be thrown in the recycling bin, placed in a filing cabinet, stamped without a second glance or stuffed into a take home mailbox. PBL and simulations provide memorable learning experiences and the end results are something students can be proud of. I don’t always follow PBL step by step or simulation lessons completely. But the philosophies behind both these methods of teaching guide much of what I do in the classroom because purpose in writing and in all subjects should be at the forefront of all teachers’ minds.
I haven’t always loved writing and only recently considered myself a writer when I started blogging only two years ago. But, I’ve always loved telling students stories from my childhood and writing what I expect them to write. Sharing my experiences, my stories, my process with students has been the key to connecting with them on a very real level about what it takes to be a writer. Writers need be able to choose topics they feel strongly about. Writers need to feel their stories and experiences are important. Writers need a supportive audience and community. Finally, writers need passionate teachers who write and listen alongside their students.