Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with a colleague that has prompted me to blog about writing in the classroom. I happened to notice that my tutoring students were having significant struggles with composing a written response to a prompt I gave them and shared it with the teacher. My friend and I are both veteran teachers who are passionate about this topic.
Interestingly, we have both noticed a shift in the amount of time spent on it. We concluded that since it is not tested at the elementary level, that the time devoted to it has taken a “back seat” to the skills that are currently being tested. Does this sound like the situation in your school? Sadly, this discussion sort of confirmed what I’ve been thinking and observing for a little while. Today, I’d like to share why writing will NEVER take a back seat for me and why it should NEVER be ignored.
Writing Reinforces Reading
As I teach writing, I always tie it to literature. If you choose mentor texts to model specific skills, you provide your students with the opportunity to learn new vocabulary, hear examples by proven authors, witness story structure or nonfiction text structures (depending on type), and learn creative ways of expression. By using rich nonfiction texts for modeling, students learn how a paragraph includes a main idea and details. They can also see how pieces of the text come together to provide an overall theme. When using narrative texts, students learn story structure including character development, setting, and plot.
Writing Can Be Done Quickly
Time is a huge issue in education especially if you are in a testing grade. I completely understand the pressures of “getting kids where they need to be”. However, rather than sacrificing time, I propose that you “double down” on your standards and weave it in across the curriculum. Use related prompts or quick notes where you might be able to build skills with your kids informally.
Your students who are skilled writers and who love to be creative will LOVE the chance to do more. However, those who struggle in this department may gain from the one-on-one discussions you can have as they work. If this is still not an option, consider paired or cooperative group projects that involve a written part. Even graphic organizers can include written responses.
Not All Pieces need to be polished
Many teachers think that skills are taught as process writing only, but I disagree with this thinking. Yes, having a piece going through the writing process at all times is a great idea. Please remember though that skills develop from frequent opportunities with informal pieces. Beginning each day with a journal prompt is a really enjoyable thing for students. Our kids love to see visually how they’ve improved from the beginning of the year to the end. Plus, those journals are wonderful keepsakes (mom talking here). You might also try RAFT papers or quick notes about the topic of study. Exit tickets can also give you a chance to see how your kids are doing with their writing skills.
Writing Skills are Life Skills
Pause for a moment and think of jobs that DO NOT require writing. I think initially, you might come up with a few. If you think more deeply, even those you come up with, will eventually require writing in some way. Writing is a life skill, and even if you aren’t writing for the New York Times, you do need to be able to write well enough to communicate. If you are a strong writer, you have far more opportunity than if you are not. Isn’t this what we want for our students? The three skills tested for college admission are verbal skills, quantitative skills, and writing.
Writing Skills are Widely Used
In today’s tech age, instruction is easier. Our school division did a one-to-one initiative. Because of that, I was able to work on it with my students as I do. Manual writing does take time. Luckily, with computers, our students are able to generate their drafts, revise, edit, and publish all from one file. There’s less time spent recopying for perfection now since we can just make modification right within the file.
Struggle with Ideas?
No problem. Most of my book companion units include writing options throughout them, and I even have a few freebies you could try. Recently, I added this freebie in my store for research. Tie it to a few favorite nonfiction texts by Gail Gibbons or Seymour Simon, and you’re set.
- How to Teach Persuasive Writing with I Wanna Iguana
- Six Writing Traits for the Primary Grades
- How to Teach Friendly Letter Writing in First Grade
Have I convinced you? Please, please, please…weave it in whenever you are able. Make your students’ work is visible by showcasing great examples. Celebrate informal pieces when you see great examples too. Encourage all types including letters, journaling, stories (have a basket for classroom books), or even comic strips. No matter what you choose, Just Do It! Your kids need you to be a teacher of writing. It should NEVER be ignored.
This Post Has 2 Comments
I agree wholeheartedly! It is not right that writing as take a backseat in elementary school. It is the only area at my school where we cannot get regular ed support for our students. We have math support and reading support but not writing. Definitely symptomatic of a bigger problem!
I think it is so sad because so much beyond writing in and of itself can be learned. It's sort of the same with spelling honestly. We teach spelling more for decoding skills than for memorizing the spelling of words. It's the unintended consequence of a test focused society.