Summer Reflection: Year-Long Approach to Writing

Okay, here is one last thing for you to think about over the summer:

How will you approach writing?

  • Like the last two posts, this is something that can’t be solved with a quick lesson. It is something that needs to be contemplated and evaluated, thoughtful and meaningful. As a teacher, you need to have a systematic approach to teaching writing, something that will carry throughout the year. We genuinely believe that student writing gets better the more he/she reads. As a result, yesterday we posted on different ways to teach reading. Before moving onto determining an approach to writing, you have to have a firm idea of what pieces you will teach and how you will teach them. This greatly impacts writing instruction because the way in which your students read a text often mimics the type of thinking or structure you would like to see them attempt or internalize as a writer.
  • Also similar to our post about reading, one firm belief key is that students need to write more frequently. This is the true test of their knowledge and command of a subject. However, the problem is that teachers don’t have the time or energy to grade all of those essays. One way to solve this problem is maintain your longer essays but add shorter writings to your curriculum. Make each response 300-500 words and provide students with a holistic grade, like a check. Then, at the end of the semester, examine their progression. Did the student move from a check to a check plus? If so, award the student accordingly. The nice thing about this approach is that it allows students to write more frequently (which helps them develop and support their ideas) but requires fewer comments. Over the summer think about what type of writing you would like them to do. Choose one and develop its integration throughout the year. You might consider having them

1.) Respond to a comprehension question about a text.

2.) Respond to an analytical question about a text.

3.) Respond to a real-world question that mimics the language of the ACT or SAT

4.) Construct a response that mimics the style of a text

5.) Write an objective summary or précis paragraph of a text

  • Another suggested approach is to consider having your students maintain an online portfolio of their writing. This is something similar to what was done in high schools year ago but was discarded because it took up so much space. Save yourself the time filing student essays and have students publish their final pieces to an online source, like the blog on Blackboard, or a discussion thread on Schoology or Edmodo. This stores each individual piece and allows students to comment upon one another’s writing. Then, at the end of the semester, ask the students to reflect on which writing standards they exhibited the most growth and still need to improve upon. This holds students accountable and causes them to think about their writing after it has been submitted, which is an important skill at any age.
  • Lastly, consider how you can move the peer editing process online. Using your Learning Management System (like Blackboard, Schoology, or Edmodo), have students post just a thesis statement. Or have them post one sentence with a quotation embedded into it. Then, their homework that night is to evaluate and provide feedback to three of their peers. Students will be much more conscientious of what they are producing if they know their peers will be reading it.

While the actual instruction of writing might differ from class to class, this summer think more about how you will approach the types and the collection of student writing.

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