5 Things Great Writing Teachers Do

Writing was always my toughest and least favorite subject to teach. Anyone relate?

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE writing! As a young child I actually wanted to be an author. I wrote mini chapter books and submitted my writing to young authors competitions. I read the thesaurus for fun. Yup, I was a big ol' nerd.

Did you see the movie My Girl? I totally wanted to be in that summer writing class with Vada. (It doesn't hurt that Mr. Bixler was pretty good looking.😉)

As a teacher, I quickly learned that liking to write and being a great writing teacher are two entirely different things. I was NO Mr. Bixler. 

Writing is so subjective. I might love the way a student wrote a story and another teacher might think that it needs significant revisions. There is no one right way to write and that makes it crazy hard to teach.

Plus, somewhere along the line many students have decided that they don't like writing. This can be caused by poor writing instruction. Boo. 

The neat thing about struggling as a writing teacher is that there was only one direction to go. I read about teaching writing. I tried new things. I grew as a teacher. And now I can share my ah ha moments with you. 

I think there are five things that every great writing teacher should do. This is just my opinion based on my own experience, but I hope that it is helpful to you.

1. Use Mentor Text

If you really want students to grow as writers, you need to show them great examples that they can emulate. When students spend time studying good writing, they have a better understanding of your expectations.

Mentor texts can come in the form of class read alouds or even passages. I prefer passages because I can let my students underline and circle aspects of the writing that I want them to model. 

"Underline the topic sentences in red and the concluding sentences in blue." 

"Circle tradition words."

You get the idea.

Mentor texts can be read whole group, used in reading small group instruction or even read independently by the students. 

I included mentor text passages in all of my writing units!

You can hear more about how I use mentor text to teach writing in THIS video.

2. Model

Are you writing stories in front of your kiddos? If not, why not?!!!

During virtually every mini lessons, students should be able to watch you write. Use the white board or chart paper. Teach a lesson and then model how to use that skill on your own writing piece.

For example, you might teach a lesson about using an interesting hook in their introduction. Then go to your writing and brainstorm a few introductions. Think out loud as you choose the introduction that is most likely to hook your audience. Let them hear your thought process. 

This helps them to have similar conversations in their mind when they go back to their seats to write.

3. Let Students Choose Writing Topics

Stop telling students what they HAVE to write about! Giving them assigned prompts (on a regular basis) is a quick way to take away their love for writing. 

No one gives their all when they are not interested in what they are writing about. But when the topic fascinates them, students will excitedly put their words down on paper.

Also, choosing the topic for them means that you might be missing out on that A-MAY-CRAY story that is just waiting to be written by your little author. Maybe Little Grant can't wait to write about the time he got lost at the zoo. It could be the coolest story, but instead he is required to write about his favorite holiday tradition (a prompt he was asigned). That topic just isn't inspiring him and so he stares at the clock and doodles in his notebook.

"But Jamie, my students don't know what to write about!"

Yeah. I totally get it. That is why we have to teach them how to come up with topics that interest them. In all of my writing units, I include lessons that show students how to generate a list of potential topics. I model these lessons and give my students the tools they need to come up with a topic that gets them excited.

It is totally worth the time!

4. Conference with Writers

A great writing teacher gives her writers flexibility and choice, but she still needs to give them feedback. The best way to give individualized feedback is to meet with students for writing conferences.

"WHAT? How am I supposed to have time for that?!"

Good question.

I won't lie. Writing conferences are hard to fit into our crazy daily schedule. But we are superheroes and we find a way to make it work.

Here are some tips:
  • meet with writers in small groups rather than independently
  • have students read their writing outloud to the group so you don't have to decipher handwriting 
  • only have students share one part of their story at a conference (ie. the lead or a place that they used dialogue, etc.)
  • spend lots of time training your writers on expectations and problem solving so that they do not need to interrupt your conferences to ask questions
You can hear more about conducting writing conferences in THIS video.

5. Give Students Time to Write Daily

Writing is not something that you just do on Fridays or just do when you have extra time. It takes continued practice to become an author.

Create a class schedule that includes at least 30 minutes of writing each day. Spend only 10 minutes of that time teaching and allow your students to write for the remaining time.

Sound impossible? 

It might have been impossible if you weren't an incredible teacher. But you are. So you can do this.

Check out THIS video to learn more about what writing workshop is and how you can fit it into your schedule.

Can I help you to become the bomb diggity writing teacher that you were meant to be? 

I have a FREE email course that is full of tips and strategies for improving your writing instruction. Plus, you will receive a FREE resource every day. #notjoking

Are you ready to get started?
Day 1: What is writing workshop? {Free week of "getting started" lesson plans!}

Day 2: What should I include in the mini lesson? {Free anchor charts!}

Day 3: How can I make student work time meaningful? {Free notebook dividers!}

Day 4: How in the world am I going to conference with all of my students?! {Free conference data forms!}

Day 5: How will I ever have time to grade all of this writing? {Free rubrics!}

Did I mention that this entire course in FREE- as in no moolah necessary?! I am serious. I don't kid about stuff like this!

These freebies are ideal for grades 2-4!

The daily lessons will be delivered to your email box. You can read the lesson whenever you have the time and work through the course at your own pace. I promise to keep the lessons short and sweet- while still jam packing them with useful and practical ideas!

You will receive all of the following FREE resources:
  • Getting Started lesson plans (Your first week of writing is planned for you!)
  • Anchor charts for the first week. (Can you believe that I am giving you digital teacher versions and mini student versions for their notebooks?!)
  • Student writing notebook dividers. (Hello, organized notebooks!)
  • Conference data forms
  • Rubrics
... for FREE!!!

I hope these tips, videos and the free course will give you the tools you need to be Mr. Bixler for your students!

Have a Not So Wimpy day!