Writing is a topic that either instills joy or fear in teachers. For some educators, teaching writing may feel like a daunting task. The awareness of the importance of writing is often tempered by feelings of inadequacy. How do you teach writing? Which methods or approaches are the best to use with students? How do you teach writing if you do not consider yourself to be a writer?
For most of my life, I’ve described myself as a writer. In the second grade, I entered the PTA Reflections contest and won an honorable mention for a piece of writing. My dream was to be a published author. During elementary and middle school, I filled up notebook after notebook with stories. There was a blip from high school to my mid-twenties when I didn’t write, but that’s a story for another time. However, when I first started teaching, I knew little, if anything, about providing writing instruction for students. As a teacher working with students who struggled with literacy, many of my students found writing to be a challenge. I knew my personal history as a writer, but I didn’t know what to do to not only encourage my students to see themselves as writers, but also to develop their skills and strategies. I also discovered that some of my “struggling readers” had amazing ideas and grasped storytelling, but their limited ability with the mechanical aspects of writing often meant that their thoughts were lost in a maze of grammatical and spelling errors. Handwriting issues also affected their messages. Those children had so much to share, but didn’t have the tools to do so.
When provided with opportunities to push into classrooms, I recognized that the struggling readers in my intervention groups were not the only ones who found writing challenging. Students described as “average” or “above average” were not always comfortable with writing. Their writing sometimes mirrored that of the students in my intervention groups and they needed additional support. While these students do not need to participate in reading interventions, they do need writing. Thankfully, my master’s and doctoral programs did address writing. I discovered research by Steve Graham, Karen Harris, and others. I also discovered online communities that supported and enhanced my writing professional development (twowritingteachers.org, teachwrite.org). I look forward to sharing this information in future posts!
Providing quality instruction is a basic tenet of response to intervention. This emphasis, however, may not always include or address the type of writing instruction provided for all students. We need to examine writing instruction in addition to reading instruction to ensure that all students receive quality writing instruction. Therefore, teachers should be provided with opportunities for professional development that reflects best practices in writing. Administrators, reading specialists, and coaches at the building and division levels can provide support for classroom teachers to ensure that all student writers benefit from exemplary instruction. I look forward to sharing information and ideas about how we can all collaborate to create environments where our student-writers can thrive.