Writing is, hands down, my subject!! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE teaching writing. But, it hasn’t always been this way. I actually hated it when I first started teaching. And, I was terrible at it!!
Over the years, I’ve invested a ridiculous amount of time, money, and energy learning to become a better writing teacher. I’ve read books, taken classes, attended lectures and workshops, tried ideas out, failed miserably, tried again, felt some successes, tried something else, face-planted again… and on, and on, and on!
I finally feel (after 10 years) that at least I’m not damaging students anymore in writing class, and that maybe, just maybe, I am actually leading them in the direction of being a writer. I certainly don’t know it all, and I’m sure I never will (but I won’t stop trying!!), but I’m going to share with you all I can.
Again, I’ll start with Professional Development:
And again, in no particular order, here are the books that fundamentally changed the way I teach writing:
1. Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher. I’ve never come across a more “Aha!” producing book on teaching writing. This guy gets it! Practical, use-them-tomorrow lesson ideas and advice for upper elementary/middle/high school students.
2. Lessons That Change Writers by Nancie Atwell. This book is the bomb, especially if you are a new teacher. Step-by-step lesson plans and materials. You will want to get the “binder” that comes with the book. It’s pricey, but worth it!!
3. The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins. When I win the lottery, I’m packing my family up and moving to NYC. Once there, I will pay Columbia University all my money to let me take classes with this amazing woman! Lucy so gets it! A true master teacher.
4. Writing Essentials by Regie Routman. Again, Regie ROCKS! Just read her!
5. A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher. True story… I once had a student ask if Ralph Fletcher was my boyfriend because I talk about him all.the.time in class. Seriously, it’s like he is there with me, co-teaching all the way! You will see he makes my list THREE times, but that’s code for READ ALL HIS BOOKS! You will never teach writing the same!
6. What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher. I’m linking you to the new edition, but I admit that I’ve only read the first edition. It doesn’t matter. Everything he says is right, so you can’t go wrong with whatever edition you read.
7. Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook by Aimee Buckner. If I had my way, I’d ONLY teach writing through writer’s notebook all day long! By far, writer’s notebook is my most powerful teaching tool and I’ve watched it work magic on writing-resistant kids. This book is fun and practical. Get it!!
8. A Fresh Look at Writing by Donald Graves. If we could all approach teaching the way that Donald Graves does, the world would be a better place. He is like the Mr. Rogers of writing instruction.
9. Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson. You will never teach grammar and mechanics again in a way that can be likened to watching paint dry or linoleum peel. This guys so gets writing and so gets kids!
10. Craft Lessons by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi. I can’t think of a more practical book!
Writing: The Video
Here’s my video. It’s sorta long, sorta amateur, BUT it covers a lot of the essentials on how writing works in my classroom:
This is the only model that I use. Though there are a million tiny differences that can make this look different in every single classroom, the basic idea is:
- Teach a mini-lesson (ideally with a mentor text).
- Give students ample time to practice writing.
- Share, give feedback, revise.
For me, the Writer’s Notebook is an integral part of this process. It is where students do all of their practicing. Now, WN purists believe that all the material generated in the notebook is solely determined by the student. I’d LOVE to be able to teach this way, but because of the constraints of standards and state testing, I find that I have to have a bit more control in what goes into our notebooks, so I deviate a bit from the WN purist model.
Like most middle school teachers working in a Common Core State, I teach three main types of writing: narrative, inform/explain, and argument. My big units look like this:
But, I have been feverishly working to update my writing curriculum to be more 7th grade-friendly. I also wanted to find a way to integrate Writer’s Notebook even more into my workshops, especially when teaching writing to inform/explain, which doesn’t always lend itself well to WN… at least in ways that I’ve found in practice!
The results of this effort are several, short (2 weeks), quick-paced workshop units that are designed to get students writing several pieces in our studied genres, but using some of the choice and freedom found in WN. I like to think of it as “guided choice.” I give students the genre and a broad topic, but they get to explore and choose the more specific details of their piece.
My plan is to teach several of these quick units, along with the longer, more in-depth units, sprinkled with some writing fun in between!!
If you’d like to save a BUNDLE, you can purchase these two BUNDLES and get my whole year of writing instruction:
So, this is one of my static pages and I will be updating as things change, so be sure to check back every now and again to see what’s new!