One of the greatest gifts we can give our students is the ability to write.  It’s not just a gift, it’s an unbelievably powerful tool!  Recently, I was sitting with my  daughter who is now in college. She said to me,  “mom, the best thing I learned in AJUSD was how to write and you know what, I’m really glad because I see my friends really struggle when we have papers to do, and I just get them done.”  Wow!  Funny, I don’t remember her saying the same thing as she was writing all her high school, middle school and elementary school papers…

So, I use the word gift, because students often don’t look at the ability to write well as a gift, they look at it more as a pain staking, tedious, and unnecessary task.  Sound familiar?  Do you as the teacher feel the same way?  Many of us would say yes, but that’s because we were  not taught writing in a way that helped us to understand what a gift the ability to write well is!

What do I mean?  Honestly, teaching writing is formulaic.  Once learned, it’s like riding a bike, you may not do it for a while, but if taught well, you pick up the pen or pencil or sit at your keyboard or ipad, and start writing.  And, just like that, the prose comes forth.  As teachers,   we are all familiar with the six traits of writing.    These traits are tools to use, to help us make our writing better but just by themselves, they don’t accomplish the task.

So where is the gift?  It’s in the process.  Good writers understand the process and don’t fight it.

First, writing is all about understanding your audience, determining the purpose of the writing and organizing your thoughts in a way that flows and makes sense to the reader.  I believe this concept may go all the way back to Plato who wrote often.  When asked, authors like Stephen King and others have replied that brainstorming is a crucial first step.  It “sets the stage” so to speak.  So what does brainstorming look like?  It looks like anything that makes sense to the person writing, it can be a web, a combination of just thoughts all over a page, a word cloud, a wordle, anything that allows a writer to get down initial thoughts.  (You can find an example of a Wordle prewrite in my links)

What’s next?  Now that the audience has been picked, the purpose has been decided and the topic brainstormed, putting everything in a natural order makes sense.  The almighty pre-write begins.  As we all know, a good 5 paragraph essay starts with an introductory paragraph, followed by three supporting paragraphs  and then a concluding paragraph.  There are many different schools of thought as to which should be written first, but I’m a firm believer in writing the introductory paragraph and going back to revise it if necessary.  It sets the stage, creates the tone and allows a natural order to appear.

So your introductory paragraph is done, what now?  Take a break!  Even standardized tests have breaks written into the directions for everyone to step away from their work and take a breath of fresh air… After a short break, re-read your introductory paragraph and ask yourself,  does it define what I’m writing about?, Does it talk to the reader? Is it arranged in a logical order?

Rough draft ensues…

Upon finishing the rough draft, teach students to read their writing out loud to themselves; modeling the steps is the most important piece of teaching writing.  Does it sound right when I read it to myself? Am I noticing that I am repeating the same words?  Have I stayed on topic?  Did I give details and evidence for each idea? Do I recognize any words or phrases that could be changed to make the writing more appealing.  Again, this step is where truly understanding the six traits of writing comes in really handy. This all important step as we all know is the revision process.

When teaching either brainstorming or revision, it’s always a good idea to read an article or piece of writing that is similar to what is being written about and make comparisons.  Ever notice how a good reader, often makes a good writer?  Good teachers teach the connection everyday.  Author’s purpose, audience, plot, theme, inform, entertain, persuade; do these things sound familiar?  Don’t you find yourself asking your students when they are reading if they understand these concepts?  Would that possibly make them even better writers?

Just take the leap and connect it to their writing as well!

So the final draft becomes a work of art; a finished product which either informs, explains, persuades or entertains.  Does it come easily? No it takes practice, practice, practice…

And then, according to my daughter,  it becomes a gift!


For those interested, I have included a link about creating good introductory paragraphs, it’s easy to follow and great for upper elementary teachers and students.

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