On teaching writing – Part I

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Veda McClain
Veda McClain

By Veda McClain
veda.mcclain@education.ky.gov

Teaching writing can be hard. Most of us remember the dread of getting back papers with feedback indicating errors on our paper or asking us to expand and clarify our ideas. We recall feelings of frustration, guilt and shame associated with the teacher’s markings.

Even though we have overcome those errors and written quality work, many of us feel uncomfortable when it comes to teaching our students how to write quality pieces. If we are to empower our students, we must move beyond our former feelings of inadequacy as writers and teach our students how to communicate in a written format.

Writing is a personal expression, and in this print-rich society, most people write every day for a variety of purposes and audiences. We write text messages, Facebook and blog posts, lists, notes, letters, email messages, tweets, journals, newsletters, poems, memos, reports, essays, papers, songs, labels and cards.

Although writing is a common practice, we do not focus simply on structure because we have practiced writing enough to know which structures and forms are appropriate for our audiences. Experienced writers focus on the meaning of the message to be conveyed. Our students need those same opportunities to practice their writing daily.

Intentional and consistent writing practice, composing rather than copying from the board, gives students the chance to express themselves and make their thinking visible. A teacher can readily see areas of misconception in the content, as well as areas of need in organization, voice, vocabulary and language conventions that impact effective communication. These aspects of writing can be improved with instruction and practice, but it must be intentional and consistent if we want our students to be able to think critically about their content, and to reflect on and refine their ideas.

Critical thinking involves reasoning through ideas and concepts to clearly express one’s thoughts. Wide reading and reflecting produces students with skilled thinking abilities, promotes their ability to write quality pieces and increases their vocabulary. Students must be able to apply these skills in order to think critically and to express their thoughts in a clear and concise manner.

This growth in thinking and vocabulary begins with exposing students to children’s literature, wide reading and oral language development through listening to peers and adults.

Here are some tips to help develop good writers in your classroom.

  1. Frequently expose your students to a variety of children’s authors. Students need to hear the voices of other authors as they begin to develop their own writing voices.
  2. Help students think through their ideas about a topic. They are capable of listening and forming their own thoughts that they can then express in writing.
  3. Allow students to write about topics that interest them and in the format that best suits them. Some students are great poets, while others may prefer essays, newsletters or songs as expressions of themselves and of what they have learned.
  4. Look for resources to support your writing lessons.

 

MORE INFO …

Read more about teaching writing at:

Teaching That Makes Sense: “Looking for Quality in Student Writing” 

Writing Across the Curriculum: “What makes writing so important” 

The Poynter Institute: “What the Best Writing Teachers Do, How Students Can Learn from Them” 

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