Want Better Writing Outcomes For Your Students?

Writing is frequently perceived as the poor relation in the family of literacy skills- neglected, forgotten, and frequently misunderstood. Teacher attitudes are frequently coloured by bad personal experiences when learning to write. As a result, writing is taught, but there is no fond embrace. It's a bit like the way my father always told me when I was a child, 'Eat your vegetables, they're good for you." -He had to say that, didn't he? He did not fully embrace his own words. Time and observation proved that he was a somewhat restricted consumer of the good for you green stuff.

Too many classrooms still adopt a perfunctory 'eat your vegies' approach to teaching writing. The writing program never quite gets going and this may well have its roots in a distinct lack of confidence or knowledge about the needs of writers. It may well be that the students know that their teacher is not totally credible as a writer. If a teacher is a non risk taker with writing, students will be less inclined to take writing risks themselves. There is no trust. There is no shared bond.

More writing needs to be undertaken with students in class. We also need to undertake more of the right kinds of writing. We must not forget what writing is for and we must emphasize its strong links to reading. If we forget writing's essential communicative role, we are depriving students of a powerful and rewarding life skill.

We can do a better job of teaching writing. We know what skilled writing looks like. We know that skilled writers plan, have a sense of their intended audience, that they possess knowledge that they bring to the writing task and that they are motivated.

Part of the challenge for teachers of writing is to assist young writers to develop a repertoire of approaches equal to those we have always taught when considering reading instruction. Our teaching needs to incorporate lessons designed to have a practical and lasting influence on student writing. Lessons that will empower student writers to identify problems, solve them satisfactorily, and increasingly assume greater responsibility for their personal writing. Importantly, our teaching should lead to these young writers embracing the thinking that surrounds effective writing.

To achieve this objective, we need to know our students as writers, and we most certianly need to know something about writing itself. Finally, we must know what to teach about writing that will extend the natural development of writing.

To be confident and articulate about how this writing happens, we must write along with our students. Afterall, would you take piano lessons from a person who doesn't actaully play the instrument they are asking you to embrace?

Without question we need to teach strategies and techniques, but so much of the vital understandings about writing filter through the stories we tell students about our personal writing challenges and how we work resolve them. Now that is powerful teaching!


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