Let’s face it. Teaching writing can feel hard. It’s this delicate balance of admiration, reflection, feedback, and mentoring, with teachers finding ways to kindly critique work in a way that will move students forward. We teach from our units or teacher manuals and try to give our kids the support they need to keep growing… But many of us are not sure exactly what that support looks like or what type of coaching and/or strategies we should share! When those feelings overwhelm us, many teachers lean heavily on cute and easy to recreate ideas from Pintrest and Teachers Pay Teachers. While some of these resources can help our students, I often wonder if scrolling through these sites is the best way to reflect on the writing process and think about the moves that may help our kids.
So what are the alternatives?
One idea is to move back into the role of writer! While many of us write for the purpose of demonstrating different moves for our lesson work, I wonder… When was the last time we wrote a piece simply to live through the whole process? When did we last write with the intention of studying our own moves? A couple of months back, a few teachers and I decided to bring ourselves back into the role of writers, and we set forth on a PD adventure to explore our inner authors, mining the moves we made to bring ourselves all the way from seed to story. From immersion to publishing, the process I outline below brought us through the journey of writing to teach.
- Choose a genre. (Most of us chose the genre of focus in our next unit of study.)
- Find some good mentor texts to study. Then, read them and notice your thought process as you unpack the writer’s moves. As you’re reading you’ll want to think, What questions am I asking? How am I working through the text to study the author’s craft moves? How am I finding areas that help me define the genre?
- While you move through the text, WRITE all the questions and strategies you used along the margins of the paper (or on post-its across the pages of a book.)
- Now it’s time to move into your notebook and get started.
- Begin with generating ideas and fill your pages.
- After a bit of writing, pause to mine your process. Ask yourself, “How did I come up with these ideas? How did one idea move me to the next? Was there a pattern to my moves?” Then, write your strategies in the margins and highlight them.
- Repeat the steps of ‘write then mine’ all the way through the writing process. To mine, continue asking yourself questions that focus on how you moved through the process, how you used mentors to guide you, and how you refined and got to know what you were really trying to say in your piece.
Once your writing is complete, you’ll have filled your back pocket with tons strategies that can support writers as they move through the writing process, AND you’ll have a notebook full of examples to use during your teaching and conferring! So instead of leaning on internet tools, use your time to mine your own process and lift the level of your teaching. I hope you decide to give this a try!