I know I'm not doing a great job teaching writing if I haven't given a single structured lesson on writing by the end of September! Usually by this time, we have made a few class books already and I have taught SOMETHING, even if it's only writing a sentence correctly. My class HAS done some writing, in their Daily 5 station of "Work on Writing," but I haven't actually looked at or graded anything.
I have an excuse for my miserably inconsistent writing instruction (and that's exactly what it is--and EXCUSE!, not a valid or acceptable reason) In my school district, there is no writing program to speak of...
....the only thing we have are our vague, inadequate Pennsylvania state standards (we don't use CC yet!) that specify four different types of writing we are supposed to teach: Fairy Tale, Narrative, Description, and Persuasive.
Needless to say, my colleagues and I are always having to do a lot of digging to find decent writing ideas. We barely even have a curriculum to follow!!! And materials all have to come from us.
So in the past I've tried 6-trait writing, and liked it. I liked it a lot actually, and the students really liked it too. And, the students came a LONG way as writers by the end of the year. I left out the trait of voice, becuase my third graders had their hands full enough with the other five traits. I have books on it, and I love how there are very helpful rubrics to use and it is a super-easy-to-follow program. BUT---it is exhausting to teach. I know that's a terrible excuse, but there it is. It takes a lot of time and dedication--and I don't have much time on a daily or weekly basis to teach the program to the fidelity I think it deserves. I suppose our district will make writing a bigger priority when/if the PSSAs demand it...
I've also tried 4-blocks but for some of the same reasons, it just didn't work out. I don't even remember specifically why I didn't stick with it (which is terrible!) but I know I didn't LOVE it. Also, I use Daily 5, and I want something that jives with the Daily 5, which is new for me this year :)
Anyway, In the past I've also focused largely on teaching nonfiction writing, since as students, that's really all we ever NEED TO KNOW how to do. Never in my high school or college career was I ever asked to, required to, or graded on, any imaginative or narrative writing. BUT narrative/fiction wriitng can be really fun (especially for girls), and I think we should all know how to write a decent story, because it's a beneficial and even important part of overall literacy.
With that said, I am going to start with a type of narrative writing that's not only required in our curriculum, but also a very concrete, formulaic type of writing. I did a simple Google search for "Teaching writing fairy tales." And I got a great site that I had never really heard of, or at least, not that I remember.
I am going to start with this entry as the first in a series of Teaching Writing. I hope it helps some of you out there. As soon as I've made some headway with above unit, I will post my unit plan on my blog here. From there, I will move on to a nonfiction unit (I have a GREAT one!) and so on...
As an English major, I feel like maybe I complicate teaching writing more than it needs to be, but I feel that I am always looking for better and better ways to teach writing. It's really difficult too when you have few materials (or none!) provided by your district and very little--if any--groundrules or curriculum to follow. Stay tuned for updates on my journey toward a better writing program this year.
*This post is part of my "Teaching Writing" series!*