Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ramblings of a Writer

Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as idleness.
~ Thomas Carlyle
I have a confession to make:  writing is terribly difficult for me.  It's something I often dread, fret over, agonize over selecting just the right word, and always feel as if the finished product is horribly inferior and needs to be deleted.  All this, even though I have a BS Ed. in English and have written a Master's thesis, journal proposals, and more essays and research papers than I care to remember! In spite of it all, writing calls to me like a siren, something I yearn and desire to do ever since I could hold a pencil and form letters. It's how I process my feelings, my ideas, my frustrations, my goals, plans, and the manner in which I can drain my brain of the barrage of ideas that bombard me at all hours of the day and night.
Ever since I taught eighth grade language arts so many years ago, I have also shared with my students that writing is difficult for me.  I tell them that it does not come easily, is quite painful sometimes, and that it takes much effort and perseverance.  I am not one who can bang out an impeccable piece of prose in just a matter of minutes. However, because of my intense desire to write and the cathartic nature of putting pen to paper or tapping the keys, so to speak, I have not given up, do not avoid writing, and love, love teaching writing to students of all ages.  
 Smiling Pencil
As I was thinking of teaching writing, I  wanted to share what I do as a writing teacher that may be of interest or help to you:

  • Every writing task that I ask students to write, I do as well.  This has many benefits.  First, it gives me a rough idea of how long it will take students to complete a piece ( at least 50% longer than it took me). Also, it gives me insight as to whether my directions or the prompt was clearIt gives me a model to show the students of what the finished product may look like if I do not have student examples. And it helps me break down the task into teachable parts.
  • I share my writing as samples of the entire process from brainstorming to publishing.  This allows for authentic modeling of the process and can be used when teaching mini-lessons on word choice, revision, transitions, writing purposes, etc.
  •  I use a writer's workshop model when possible- to allow for choice and voice in student writing, for individualizing writing to match student interests and abilities, and to foster an authentic community of writers.
  • I use anchor charts and lots of them!  In true fashion, I create them with the students on chart paper and do not create them ahead of time.  They are hung on the focus wall and around the room for students to use as they work independently.  
  • Students maintain a writer's notebook that is used for Quick Writes, as a dialogue journal, for responding to creative journal prompts, and for experimenting and practicing skills and strategies we are learning during whole group time.  The student's portable word wall is also kept in their journal.
  • I do my best to create a risk-free, can-do environment-  Because writing is difficult for me, I am sensitive to those writers who need time and lots of it to get started, to craft their piece and who need to spend much time "polishing". Learning, including writing, is such a social activity!  Students work collaboratively, I make use of an Author's Chair, and work with students in Guided Writing groups where I can focus on specific skills or strategies and offer scaffolding.
Writing can be dreadful, but it can also be extremely rewarding and let's face it, is more important than ever before in our digital and social media age.  Blogging for me is something that I enjoy immensely even though I know that I am not the best, creative, or most talented writer. And that's ok.  And that is also why I cannot even tell you how astounded and shocked I was when I discovered a little message in my email this morning that informed me that my little blog had been nominated for the Top 25 Teacher Mom blogs- 2013 from Circle of Moms.
 I am honored and humbled to be in the company of the other super talented nominees, many of whom I recognize and respect so much! I'm not sure who nominated me, but I thank you from the bottom of my little, grateful heart!

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  1. See, I write very well, but I don't know how I do it. I taught high school (9th-12th) English for a year and discovered I can tell when writing is good or bad, but cannot tell someone how to make their bad writing good! Luckily, my DD is only in K this year so we will be focusing on beginning-middle-end type stuff. However, I can't wait to read future blog posts about how well you are doing teaching it!

  2. Hi Kate, I started my career teaching 11th/12 grade English. Fortunately, I had some really good writing classes in college that helped me to plan and structure writing. I always use an organizer or plan out a skeleton of the writing first because I am a big picture person and then I focus on the details. I hope to blog more about writing in the fall as I will be homeschooling my first grader. Thanks so much for stopping by! :-) Lauren


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