For our last reading response of the course, we skipped ahead to chapter 13, which focused on teaching writing to struggling students.
Writing has five main processes, which are as follows:
- Brainstorming—a time for generating ideas, stimulating thinking, making plans and creating the desire to write.
- Composing—Drafting thoughts, getting ideas down on paper and getting a purpose and an audience in mind. The act of writing.
- Revising their thoughts after input from teacher or peers—Students have many chances to read their work critically to peers or a teacher, in a process called a conference. During the conference, the student reads his work, while the audience listens carefully. The audience then focuses on praise, elicits clarifications and makes suggestions for improvement.
- Editing their writing errors and such—This is where the students focus on spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word choice and syntax.
- Publishing their writing—the teacher can either post this electronically on a blog, or the teacher can hang finished work on bulletin boards or submit it to a publication for children authors.
At any given time, writers are engaged in one or more of the above stages. When you have students who are struggling to write, direct instruction and modeling becomes a huge part of the teaching process. There are many different methods to teach writing to challenged students, and all of them are equally as valuable, such as guided writing, where the teacher works individually with students, guiding them through the steps of the writing process. There is also strategic writing instruction, where the teacher determines a strategy the students really need help with and focuses on that for the lesson, modeling said strategy and guiding the students through the initial process. There are also writing workshops, which are very effective because everyone moves at their own pace. Teachers set up “conference” times throughout the week to talk one-on-one with each student and figure out where they are progressing and where they still need assistance. There are also actual programs created with the struggling writer in mind like the Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing, where every process of writing is detailed in printed rubrics or guides called Think Sheets that the students use to remind themselves to complete each step of writing.
Regardless which method you use in your own classroom for teaching writing, it needs to be remembered that the only way to hone a writer’s skills is to write and write often. I am a staunch believer that anybody can become a writer, and that anybody can write well. What sets the okay writers apart from the tremendous writers is the commitment they have for their craft. One of the jobs of us educators is to convince our students that excellent writing is worth all the concerted time and effort put into it. This is especially true for those who take extra-long to complete writing assignments because of their challenges. Struggling writers need to be taught that good writers are not born, and that even they can achieve greatness with resilience and extra practice.
Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 456-492.