I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I LOVE teaching writing, but let me be honest and say that I only became comfortable with it when I was put in a 3-way split (reading, writing and math), and I became the writing teacher for the entire fourth grade class. Yikes! It was a shock to see the lack of writing skills these students possessed. This is NOT a reflection of the teacher they had before me, but it did allow me to see a flaw in the way we were approaching the act of teaching writing. My goal in this post is to break down the ways I teach it and perhaps it will motivate you to try something new.
At the beginning of each writing lesson, the teacher should be explicitly teaching a skill to prepare the students to go off and independently write – this is called the mini lesson. The reason I call it WRITING IN THREE is because on any given day, within your mini lesson, you should be teaching and modeling one of the following three writing skills: revising, editing or just write.
On the days you’re teaching JUST WRITE, you’re modeling how to generate ideas and write a draft of either a narrative or an expository (opinion) piece. To ensure your students understand your lesson, I tell my teachers to MODEL – always. No exceptions. For example, if you’re teaching how to write a narrative piece, you should be saying things like, “Hmmm… I think I’m going to write about the time I fell off the monkey bars. Writers, watch me as I brainstorm and generate ideas about that event.” As you’re saying this, make sure to project your journal so they can see what that looks like on paper. Students NEED to see you WRITE. These particular lessons need to demonstrate the structure of the genre. In other words, if you’re teaching narrative writing, they should know that it requires a beginning, middle and end. If it’s an opinion piece, it requires two reasons with examples and details.
Before sending your students off to write on their own, have them rehearse (turn-n-talk) with their writing partners about what they plan to write. KEEPING IN MIND that it’s perfectly normal for your students to occasionally abandon one piece of writing and begin a brand new one.
NOTE: For grades K-1, I would suggest projecting your writing on big anchor chart paper. For grades 2-5, I would use the ELMO to project my writing journal.
After a few days of JUST WRITE lessons and independent work, your students should be ready to begin the REVISING part of the writing process. Your mini lessons will need to shift and become much more calculated. With that said, it’s VITAL for you, the teacher, to keep a journal of all your writing pieces, as this will give you something to revise when the time comes. If you teach reading and writing for two sets of classes, then you will need TWO journals (one for each class).
Remember that revising is much more complex than people imagine. Have you ever heard of CUPS and ARMS? Well, revising stands for ARMS (Add words/sentences, Remove unnecessary words or sentence, Move words/sentences around, and Substitute words). Teach your students that revising is NOT a one day process. On the days you’re teaching revising skills, you’re teaching things like introductions, conclusions, details, dialogue, etc. The beginning of your lesson could sound something like, “Writers today we’re going to work on adding details to make our stories come to life. Writers often do this by adding dialogue. Watch me as I look at my writing and find places where I can add dialogue.” Then model what that looks like by projecting your writing and adding dialogue in places it makes sense. Remind your kiddos that even though revising seems like a never-ending process, in real life when authors write books they go through lots of revisions!
Once you’re satisfied with the way your writing sounds, you’re ready to move on to editing. Editing is often referred to as CUPS (Capitalization, Usage of words, Punctuation, and Spelling). Editing deals with how your writing looks. Modeling editing lessons is much easier because the mistakes are easy to correct. For example, the day you’re teaching what things need to be capitalized is the day you take out your piece of writing and begin making those corrections. Your lesson would start off as, “Writers did you know that good writers make sure to edit their writing before publishing? One of the things they look for is capitalization errors. Let me go back to my writing and see if I need to make any corrections.” Again, make those corrections in front of your students before sending them off to practice on their own.
Once you’ve completed the revising and editing portion of the writing process, you are ready to PUBLISH! Yay! Make sure your students know that publishing one piece of writing is a time for celebration. However, make sure they are gearing up to repeat the process with a NEW writing piece or a NEW writing genre.
If you would like more information about WRITING IN THREE, I encourage you to listen to episode 3 of my podcast, Biliteracy Now. The link is on the top right corner of my homepage.
Want revising and editing checklists in Spanish and English? Click here.
Thanks again for stopping by!