Importance of Teaching Students How to Write

  • Good writers are good readers. Writing gives voice to our inner thoughts and allows us to share them. As a form of communication, writing can transcend time and is a way to pass stories from generation to generation.

    It has been said that the best way to improve anyone’s reading is to have them write. Writing focuses students on phonics, comprehension, mechanics, developing their voice or perspective, and communicating this perspective to others. Gone are the days of diagramming sentences.

    Balanced Literacy focuses on developing the many skills that good readers and writers possess, in an authentic method of communication. Writing makes for better readers and improves comprehension and critical thinking.

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    Teachers must learn how to create a classroom environment that is conducive to writing and supports effective writing instruction for all learners, including struggling writers and English Language Learners. To do so effectively, teachers must first go through the writing process themselves, which can be accomplished by taking a class or workshop of their own.

    Create a writing community

    Once a teacher understands what is involved in becoming a better writer they can focus on teaching their students to write.

    To effectively foster a community of budding young writers, teachers need to create an environment that is safe, encourages risk, and provides the support for learning the skills essential to the craft of writing. Balanced Literacy provides the teacher with many opportunities to model writing for their students, thereby infusing the skills necessary for their students to develop.

    The first step is always to observe the writer and his or her writing. From there, teachers can comment on success, note a teaching point, guide content, and for more advanced writers offer examples of good writing so that the student can apply what is appropriate.

    Four ways to get started on teaching writing:

    • List what you feel are the elements necessary to create a classroom writing community.
    • Consider your classroom and your list in #1 What do you already have in place?
    • What do you need to work on to foster a classroom writing community?
    • What are students reading? What resources can you tap into? Perhaps Harry Potter is a good example.

     Stages of Writing Development

    People experience predictable stages of development while gaining skills. Before you learned to drive, you had to learn about the parts of the car, what the gas and brake pedals were for, and how to start the engine. It took much practice, first on empty streets or parking lots, then on quiet roads before you were ready to drive in traffic.

    Language development also occurs in predictable stages. Babies coo, mimic sounds, learn one-word identifiers for what they want, and eventually put it all together to form coherent words and sentences. Similarly, writers begin with scribbles, evolve to picture, and eventually begin to use letters to represent sounds. From these basic skills, they can later create words, sentences, stories — there is no limit.

    It is vital for teachers to understand the stages of writing so they can help their students advance to higher levels. It is a rare class that contains students who are all on the same functional level.

    Balanced literacy allows teachers to bring students to a higher level, no matter where on the continuum they are.

    Teaching writing to ESL students

    English Language Learners and struggling readers and writers present unique challenges.

    Success for students for whom English is another language depends greatly on how well they learned their first language. If they went through the appropriate developmental stages in their first language, most can adapt to English by transferring the skills they have already learned.

    But for those who did not acquire language through appropriate stages, as well as those who are struggling readers, the teacher must be aware of where their students’ deficiencies fit on the continuum in order to help them improve. The goals are the same. The instruction must be paced more slowly and with more explicit direction.

    The Writing process – for teachers

    The writing process is a cycle repeated many times. It is a process that teachers must master themselves before passing their knowledge along to students.

    Pre-writing is the first stage, and this happens consciously or unconsciously. Knowing that you have to compose a document, you will probably mull ideas in your head before you ever set pen to paper. Students may need guidance in formulating ideas, and this stage of the process is designed to stimulate thoughts. This can be an extensive process, sometimes taking more time than the writing.

    The first draft gets ideas on paper without much concern for the mechanics. It is the starting point from which all future versions will flow. After looking over a draft or sharing it with another reader, a writer will begin to revise by checking for content, organization, and clarity. The next phase is editing, where the mechanics of writing are reviewed. Sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and grammar are considered.

    A foundation for students

    While a teacher might not be creating a future Hemingway or Jane Austen, learning to teach writing to kindergartners and elementary school students will go a long way to lay a foundation for future achievement.

    One way to do this is for teachers to take a page from their own writing workshop, literally.