Everyone NEEDS to start Somewhere
Hate Teaching Writing?
One Step at a Time!
Nothing in life, of value, happens instantly. It begins in baby steps, followed by walking steps, followed by running, and-finally- dancing. It all took place over time- a LONG time.
As I look back over the course of my teaching career, the schools I have taught in, and observations made, many students lack in communication or writing skills. They don't feel comfortable doing it, it stresses them out,or they are clueless as to where to begin. In fact, when you mention the word "writing", most of them groan and their eyes glaze over like donuts or are like empty windows.
Many teachers, I have discovered, feel exactly the same as their students: befuddled, frustrated, or unsure of how to attack the idea of preparing their students as writers. They don't want to talk about it and, even more importantly, they don't want to attack it in their classroom. Someone else, surely, will feel the burden of responsibility!
Believe it or not, I used to feel the exact same way-maybe more so than you! Each year, I felt that my students were sliding along because I did not know to successfully teach it. Surely someone else was better prepared to teach it than I was. My reading programs had me shooting at writing in the dark or jumping through endless hoops in too many directions; other ideas were sooo complicated and time consuming (like three days for one part that they stated should be taught in 30 minutes!) or so vague they made all of us hate them (MYSELF AND THE KIDS). Others scripted all 180 days of writing class (which for me does NOT WORK because each class is different) or they were void of clarity in any of the genres (In fact, I was more confused after I read their explanations than before I began)- which I was supposed to know all about because I was the teacher.
I thought to myself, "Surely my kids will get writing without me really having to teach it!"
It was difficult. It was complicated. It was time consuming.
Well, let's be blunt and completely honest: writing was my largest struggle and I felt unprepared! Deep down inside I wanted to master it! I wanted to make my students feel empowered and successful, but where was I to begin? I was scared to ask for help. Who could I ask anyway? Who knew would know how to tackle teaching writing?
Back when I stepped into the first classroom, research had to be done at libraries, in magazines, and in books. I studied and read for hours, days, and vacations on end. Fortunately, today the internet is readily available and is jam-packed with articles informative things about writing. (However, due to the sheer volume of material presented, it is important to find several - I prefer three or four- that give the same information about teaching writing because some articles are not accurate and can lead you down the wrong path altogether or confuse you to the max.)
Because of my own frustration and lack of clarity with writing as a beginning teacher, my quest for a successful, uncomplicated, clear, unscripted program that would empower, equip, engage, and encourage my students to be successful writers and communicators took many years and numerous paths.
I bought programs, went to workshops, and even got trained in becoming a teacher trainer for two different writing programs. One was sooo painful my students and those of others using it cried. Students hated reading and writing. I threw that one off my radar screen. The other was successful, but lacked elements for teaching response to literature to my elementary students.
My boss, at the time, encouraged me to find the answers and train the teachers in the elements needed-despite the fact that that particular program was void in that area. I did it, but this drove me even farther into my quest for knowledge of teaching the writing genres.
I began to wonder and ponder this fact: if I was going to train people in these genres with material I created, why not make it my own program.
After digging deep, Strategies for Writing was born. For seven years it was refined, rewritten, and field tested. It was developed in conjunction with three different school districts utilizing and implementing ideas from a broad base of teachers- who worked the students with three completely different sets of demographics. One school's families were basically moderate income, another was (99 % FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH) low income with most students having one or more parent in an incarcerated state, and the third was in multi-cultural school with English being the second or third language. Upon completion, trial and error, revamping, consulting, and refining the material, I felt satisfied and confident in my struggle with the one area my university degree had not addressed sufficiently: teaching writing to my elementary students from kindergarten to grade 5.
Strategies for Writing reached them all. It equipped, engaged, and empowered students in ALL of these schools at all levels. Sure, everyone was not 100% successful, but ALL of the students experienced some level of success, and, in doing so, could share their knowledge articulately with others. Shy students became solid writers, students who struggle remind quick students to implement periods, commas, and semi colons. High preforming students produce powerful pieces of material. SFW was working using all strategies of Brain Research!
So, you ask, why all of this rant about the past? Why all this verbiage on teachers struggle (even if we don't want to admit it). It's simple: EVERYWHERE I LOOK, PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH WRITING ARTICULATELY. SFW (Strategies for Writing) is a simple, concise, turnkey answer!
picture by : Me Pham Badge
Look around America. The largest problem at ALL LEVELS is writing. People can rapid fire text, but they can't write much at all. Many students enter college barely able to write two concise sentences. Colleges EVERYWHERE are adding REMEDIAL ENGLISH classes. Great communicators are few and far between. And, sadly, the majority of students have no idea the difference between genres: narrative, expository, or a response to literature piece. All three are essential to success in our world. All three are simple to learn, easy to write, and strengthen our ability to communicate successfully with the world around us IF-AND ONLY IF- they are given the TOOLS to write them!
Writing is often a subject that is brushed under the carpet, swept behind things, or shelved as teachers hope another colleague or teaching partner will address it. Writing NEEDS to be taught. Students NEED to be empowered. We ALL NEED to jump on the BANDWAGON! Even if you, like myself, do not feel confident, we NEED to do it! We MUST realize we are preparing the leaders of tomorrow. We MUST ENGAGE in the battle!
In previous blogs, I have explained each genre in depth, but below I will condense the definitions to allow for short, simple versions, which can be successfully implemented immediately.
Narratives are stories. The writer is a storyteller (we call them cavemen or cave woman in Strategies for Writing). They need to use a strong character, include an interesting setting, and sequentially cause events to flow from beginning to end.
Expository (Factual Writing) is the most commonly used form of writing. It presents the facts, details of the facts, and examples or explanations to support the details. Each essay must include a topic sentence and a concluding sentence OR, if the student is above third grade, they will need a thesis statement and a concluding statement instead of topic sentences. This genre focuses on factual information which can be proven with supportive evidence.
Response to Literature (Analyzing author's ideas) is a genre which critiques the authors words and breaks them down into our personal interpretation of their message. Students learn to state the author's words and apply their understanding of the messages in the text.
Can first graders write all of these genres? Second? Down the pipe? Absolutely! Using the simple templates in Strategies for Writing, students of all levels will find success. Modeling and providing samples will solidify their knowledge. Videos prepared on the teacher video page will assist you. Student videos will give short videos that students will relate too, as other students show the motions or chants. As you use the one page templates, students will gain confidence and articulation. And, yes, the templates, with the exception of a few in the upper grades, are only ONE page in length.
You will find that any subject, any adventure, any event, or any world event can be tied into one of the three types of writing. If you approach it with a positive attitude, your students will begin to reflect the same attitude. It will no long be painful, but a strong, full-filling part of your teaching day!
So, you ask, "Does it matter if I teach writing?" My answer would be, "Absolutely! We have a chance to impact the future! Let's take that responsibility seriously and empower them starting in Kindergarten!"