Planning For Writing, Let's Make It Count

When teachers look closely at the writing students produce; when they understand how writers operate, the forward planning they undertake endeavours to focus on the point of need for each writer. 

The instruction that grows from such planning occurs on several levels- whole group, small group and individual. The planning doesn’t limit the young writer’s choice, nor deny them opportunities to add to their growing repertoire of craft strategies.

John Hattie’s research has revealed that up to 70% of what teachers ‘present’ to learners, they already know. To avoid such a scenario, planning must aim to build upon prior learning and move the student forward. For this reason alone, examining writing samples and conference notes is critical to effective planning. This is planning that sets high expectation for teaching and learning.

Planning that disregards such important considerations often places arbitrary limits on the student writer. When teachers plan using arbitrary or rigid guidelines, it has the effect of limiting the growth of writing. Curriculum guidelines are just that. They are guidelines. They are open to interpretation. To translate them so rigidly, does the student no great service. A packaged view of curriculum does a disservice to teacher professionalism and restricts agency in the classroom.

Take for instance, the craft strategy, ‘show, don’t tell,’ -should it only be introduced or taught at a particular grade level?  Some schools have determined it should not be taught before Grade 3.

Would it make more sense to allow it to be introduced at the discretion of the teacher having taken into account the needs of the writer and their particular development? An individual student or students may indicate through their writing they would be further empowered by exposure to such a transforming craft strategy. The teacher determines to teach at this point of need.

In the past, I have introduced this strategy to some of our youngest writers. I watched in awe as they transformed their initial words into more powerful pieces. They used their writing to convey strong visual images to their readers. They set their characters in motion rather than telling their readers what had occurred. This strategy possesses a kind of magic. Kids will inform us through their writing when they are ready to receive this writing wisdom.

When teachers alert young writers to possibility, they embrace it. If teachers nudge themselves when planning and nudge students by consistently applying high expectations, so much more is achievable.

Planning must take teaching to the edge of possibility, rather than impose doubt and uncertainty. Uncertainty borne out of a lack of understanding about what writers need –and when they need it.

Some Considerations:
·   Have I used the formative and assessments identify the current needs of my writers?
Can I describe my vision, focus, objectives, and student needs?
Is my plan for teaching aligned with standards, objectives, and guidelines?
Is there a balance of teaching strategies, learning strategies, and authentic tasks that engage and meet the needs of diverse learners?
Have I developed plans, methods, and processes?
Have I sequenced the learning clearly?
Have I Identified resources I need to support my teaching?

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