Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The WRITE Stuff- My Take on Superb Writing

I am sharing my passion for writing as a part of the Superb Writers’ Blogathon. In partnership with Grammarly grammar checker, this series allows teachers to share their knowledge of the written word.

Whenever I think about myself as a writing teacher, I always think back to my first year teaching... when we wrote all the time, but I never taught my kids how to write.  I thought I was doing so great... writing everyday, journals, poems, all sorts of writing!  Heck, I was a first year teacher, holding my head above water (barely!) and my 2nd graders were writing!

And then I became a 2nd year teacher.  And I actually knew what I was doing.  And I had learned so much my first year.  And I realized that, even though we wrote... I never taught my students how to do it.

I didn't model.

I didn't share mentor texts.

We didn't talk about our writing.

We didn't celebrate our writing.

We didn't look at ourselves as writers and think about our progress.

So, fast forward to 2012... six years later.

I love teaching writing.  And it's just part of what we do all day long.  For me, one of the most important things about teaching good writing, is talking about it.  Constantly.  My favorite thing to teach is reading and I read books all day long to my students.  Books about everything... anytime I can work one in to a lesson, there it goes.

But, even if I'm teaching math and reading a book about fractions, we talk about words the author used, how sentences don't all start the same, we look at punctuation.

When I read for fun to my students, I choose books that will provide them a rich literary experience.  We often stop to talk about word choice, visualizing parts of chapters, and just generally appreciating a superb piece of writing.

I also think it is so important for students to keep a portfolio of pieces they can look back on throughout the year.  We use a portfolio type of method to help our students organize their writing.

They write down the title of the piece (or what it is if there is no title), the three things we've asked them to make sure that they do in the piece (called the FCAs- focus correction areas.  This is part of the John Collins writing management system.), and then write down yes or no to tell if they did each FCA.  We also talk about how they feel they did on the piece.  Yes- this can be time consuming.  BUT the power of seeing and hearing my students talk about themselves as writers is awesome.  And, it would surprise you, because they don't always just write "I did good on...".  They will sometimes write "I need to work on...".  And we always share their successes and their not-so-successful attempts.  They love telling everyone about it anyway!  Here's the inside of one of my girlies' writing folders.  Sadly, I sent #8 home without thinking and that's why there is nothing recorded in the last column.

Every time we put a piece in, we pull out old pieces of writing and we go around the room and my 1st and 2nd graders tell ways they have changed as writers from one piece to the other.  And at the end of the year, we lay them all out and they have this beautiful, linear progression of skills.  Now we know that we have to think about ourselves as writers, think of our progress, and celebrate our successes.  Here is a peek into one of my sweetie's folders.

Last, it is so important to model, model, model.  I believe that my students need to see me (and help me!) along in the writing process.  They watch me tinker with phrasing or try and come up with just the right way to express my idea.  They like seeing me think and I like having them help me through the process.  I love the book No More "I'm Done" by Jennifer Jacobson.  It's actually for writing workshop, but it's full of lesson ideas and ideas for mentor texts.

And it doesn't always have to be the teacher as the model- I have a huuuuuuge collection of books that I use for mentor texts.  Here are some of them, organized by trait (a la 6 traits):

I have shared this before, but incase you missed it- you can see my writing binder which is how I organize my lesson ideas and lists of mentor texts.  Just click the picture of the binder below!

What are some of your favorite writing tips for producing superb writing in your classroom?  I'd love for you to share in the comments!


  1. Great post on writing! I totally agree- model, model, model is so important. I also did a grammarly post if you want to come check it out. :)
    Conversations in Literacy

  2. That is awesome! I am glad you posted this, because I probably would do the same thing as you did your first year, just make sure to add a lot of writing assignments but not really study it. You have a lot of great ideas for helping students learn, set goals, and be proud of their writing!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I used to be the same way- writing without teaching HOW to write. I love teaching writing now.

  4. Thank you thank you! I still struggle with teaching writing. I love to write but have a hard time teaching it. I'm going to borrow some of your strategies!

    Sara :)
    Smiling In Second Grade

  5. One thing to remember too, expecially with our youngest writers, is that YOU can be the mentor text. YOU as the teacher are an author. And some of us are especially talented authors at that! Don't get too hung up on having EVERY lesson use a mentor text. If you can't find a GREAT example of something you want to teach your littles to do in writing, don't use a so-so text to make your point, make it up yourself! YOU be the great model of that craft or type of writing. I have done that a lot this year and my kids are writing leaps and bounds above where they ever have before. The most important thing to remember is not to let teaching writing stress you out. When you learn to let the stress go and just teach them how great writers write, the proof comes out each and every time they put written words on a page! Enjoy!

  6. Do you mind sharing your mentor texts?? THANKS!


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