Creating Writers for Life: The Teacher Mistakes I've Been Making



I think all teachers would agree that our biggest hope is that learning doesn't stop at the classroom door. We hope our students become readers and writers for life! School starts in just over two weeks, which is perfect time to get our teacher juices flowing with some Writer's Workshop training with Jessica Rogers from Rogers Education Consulting. I wanted to share with you (with her permission) a few of my favorite tips from her training! Mostly, I want to shamelessly share with you what I have been doing wrong could be doing better.


Blame it on my OCD, but I want if I just read a book about the jungle, I want my students to reflect on and write about the jungle!! In a perfect world, students would do that. What I learned, is that my weaker students will easily write about the jungle because I most likely modeled a writing sample about a jungle and the students are simply mimicking my example. However, my STRONG students might think about a jungle, then have a chain reaction and relate it to one or more other things.

We as teachers DO NOT want to limit our students' creativity by telling them what they HAVE to write about. We need to be ENCOURAGING our students to take ownership of their writing by letting them choose their own topic.

Please don't get me wrong. I fully intend on having back up plans with writing prompts, word banks, etc. in case students get stuck or need options to choose from. I have writing prompts ready for daily writing, letter writing, how to writing and holiday themed writing {Check them out here}. BUT, I plan to tell my students "You can write about this prompt, OR you can write about anything else you feel passionate about".

You know you've done it. Well, maybe it's just me, but I've been guilty of trying to cover too much ground at one time. I think "Okay, we are going to read this book. We are going to reflect on it. We are going to talk about common themes. We are going to discuss one writing skill to focus on. The students are going to write these AMAZING writing samples based on the book. We are going to do a craft about the book." (and so on).

What I learned today was to break it down. Jessica Rogers recommended reading the book once JUST FOR ENJOYMENT. Let the kids enjoy the story and work on comprehending the text. Later (a couple of days, weeks, etc.), you can pull the same book as an example in a writing mini-lesson. There are two amazing benefits I see with this method:
#1- Students are already familiar with the book and have already made connection to the text.
#2- You can save time because you can read 1-2 pages of the book that specifically address your new writing skill instead of spending another 5-10 minutes to read the entire book. (If we want students focusing on one skill, why are we re-reading an entire text and confusing their focus?)

I am a checklist gal. I know my standards and  I know "how, when and why" my students need to be taught a specific standard. What I HAVEN'T been so great at, is informing my students of "how, when and why" they need to LEARN a specific standard. Isn't that the reason we teach? Don't we want to inspire our students to be learners for life and take control of their learning? 

My goal for this new school year is to include the "how, when and why" concepts into EVERY mini-lesson I teach this year, whether it be reading, writing, math, science, social studies, etc. 



What are some ways you have improved your writing procedures?


3 comments

  1. Great tips! It's hard to teach writing to those first graders!

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    1. Thanks Jen! It is definitely the area I have to put the most work into. As we get older, writing becomes so easy that it's hard to break it down for our little learners!

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  2. Wow Kristen, thank you for the reflection. I bet you do a fantastic job teaching the little guys. I look forward to hearing how it all goes.

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