Writing is a difficult subject to teach. Each student has different strengths and weaknesses, ability levels, and interests. Writing has many facets, a fluid-structure, and there is a variety of types of writing. With all that, no wonder a teacher finds it a hard subject to teach.
One area I have been working on is endurance. I want my students to write as much as possible during our Writing Workshop. The more they practice, the better they will become writers. Here are a few things I focus on:
Have a plan and map it out
Starting at the beginning of the year, I keep a timer for how long my students will write after my mini-lesson. At first, students will write for 12 minutes. Each writing session, I increase the time a few minutes until we work up to about 35 to 40 minutes. I map out several weeks showing the increase times to reach that goal. I also make students aware that we are working towards the 40 minutes so they are involved in the process.
I also make sure we have all the materials for writing. I give everyone a “special” pencil for writing. We also have spiral notebooks, special paper, and computers – anything to encourage and excite students to write.
Another thing I do is talk to the students about what writing time looks like. I compare it to reading. When a student finishes a book during reading time, they switch to a new book and continue reading. Well, writing should be the same. After a student has worked on their piece of writing and tried on the strategy I taught in the mini-lesson, they are to continue writing another piece. We usually call it “free writing”. Students aren’t allowed to say, “I am done writing” after 8 minutes. They may be done with a writing piece after that time but will have to move onto another, just like a book.
Model and confer
Even though I am the teacher, I am always writing a piece with my students so I can model. Right now we are writing narratives. I write my own in order to show students how I develop ideas, slow down the moment, add description and dialogue, and much more. It is hard to tell students strategies without showing them how to do it.
Another thing I do is confer with students. I either walk around and talk to individuals about their writing or I do guided writing groups. The individual conferring is done daily with several students. I work on that student’s specific needs and struggles. It is also a good way to check-in and see how students are doing with their writing.
Guided writing groups are done as the need arises. I look for students who are struggling with the same issues in their writing so I can meet with them and do a guided lesson. Sometimes the groups are two or three students and other times it can be up to six students.
Share and celebrate
Finally, I have students at the end of each writing time share what they wrote. Usually, I have three to four students share out to the class. It helps us see how the writing strategies were used in several different pieces. Plus it gives validation to the students writing. Students get to share what they wrote with an audience. It is no longer just work the teacher had the student do.
Teaching students to write has its challenges. However, if we can encourage students to write more and have time to complete and express themselves in their writing, we are moving them into becoming writers. Try these tips to create a writer’s workshop that builds your students’ endurance.