I hate teaching writing, and I know it’s not just me.
Many teachers hate teaching writing. There is no magic button that activates brainstorming. Snapping your fingers won’t make the ideas organize into cohesive thoughts. It takes more than a twitch of a nose to pull, drag, and yank the words out of some of our students. And only if you could hold their hands to write, maybe then you could read it.
Writing includes many processes from reading to spelling. It also involves varying skills from the basic tasks of writing such as letter formation (or in today’s world, this could include typing) to spelling and grammar to sentence and text structures. And these are only some of the processes and skills involved in writing.
Since writing is comprised of so many intricacies, it is important to teach writing through a mixed approach. Students should progressively learn different forms of writing or genres by moving from product to process to product.
Insert your thought bubble here: “That’s great, but what does that look like in the classroom?”
Well, here’s the format I use for teaching writing (and, I don’t hate it):
The model I use is a genre study, tweaked to meet my students’ needs.
Genre studies examine structural elements for patterns in collections of texts through an inquiry-based strategy. Common elements discovered across texts are what define genre. Essentially, each genre reflects participate language conventions or style and is written for a particular audience and purpose.
After I have chosen the genre (i.e. narrative, argument) we are focusing on, I choose the texts that are the best models of that genre. For example, Little Red Riding Hood is a great model text for the genre of fairy tales.
On immersion day, we are swamped with sample texts of our genre. For example, if we are writing narratives, I will provide students with varying examples of narrative texts. Examples include trade books, picture books, printed short stories, etc. I also incorporate technology through Google Classroom links to interactive stories online, text online, etc. Immersion may also include a read aloud of a mentor text for the genre. Students can take notes on what they notice about the text, or they can just observe.
My students act as research scientists. At first, they just submerse themselves, skimming some texts, reading others, noticing the front covers or the inside illustrations.
Then, they dissect the samples, taking notes as they go (i.e. I noticed many descriptive adjectives in the texts).
We oscillate from independent research to group collaboration of ideas.
After immersion, we discuss what we noticed about our genre as a whole group.
As the teacher, I guide the discussion, facilitating key ideas of the genre to emerge and assure inclusion of innovative student observations, all the while creating an anchor chart of what we believe defines the genre. This chart remains posted throughout the year, and we add to it as we learn and become better writers.
I then continue immersion by dissecting genre models. We begin with guided practice where I read aloud a genre mentor text and I model note taking my thoughts on the genre.
Then, students work in collaborative groups, dissecting text samples in order to gain more exposure to the genre.
After students have gained an understanding of a genre’s language, audience, purpose, and style, we learn to become authors of this genre.
My first step in transforming students into authors is to model writing the genre through interactive writing. Basically, we write a piece of text for the genre as a whole group. This models the writing process for the genre.
Similar to the think alouds we use to model reading at the lower levels, interactive writing enables educators to model how good writers write. Students can help to write the piece in order to hear their voices as well as practice being writers.
Interactive writing pieces can be considered exemplars for your students as well. Instead of using student samples as models or exemplars, consider using your interactive writing pieces.
We use our lists or anchor charts of the key ideas that define the genre to create a rubric as a class to assess whether we met expectations for writing the genre. This gives students’ ownership over their learning and provides them with guidance for each stage of the writing process, including independent writing.
Interactive Writing comes next, and this is considered guided practice.
During this step, students write texts in stages. For example, when teaching narrative text, I will model writing a hook for a piece of text. We will discuss other hooks I could write. I will include student examples. Then, I will release the students to write a hook of their own.
Students can write with a partner, in groups, or independently during this stage, depending on the groups’ needs.
After we have written our own hooks, we will share some, giving feedback. Then, I will model writing the introduction through the interactive writing process. I will then have the students try it, share out, and discuss. I continue this process until we have a completed writing sample of the genre.
The last step is to write! Students become authors and produce a final writing product, modeling the genre. I release my scaffolded supports to independent practice.
For mini-lessons while students are in the independent writing phase, you can edit and revise the Interactive Writing pieces you wrote as a whole group.
While independent, teachers can target writing skill needs. Lagging skills in writing should be targeted through small group and sometimes, specialized instruction. Deficits in writing should be supported with accommodations and/or modifications.
So with this model, my feelings on teaching writing have changed...now, you can say I actually love teaching writing!
~ By Miss Rae
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