I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers March Blog Challenge. If you would like more information about this challenge click here.
There is a magic to teaching and teaching writing.
M= Mentor Texts
A couple years ago in my little apartment, I had a dream. An impactful dream of me up on stage giving a Ted talk. I had some clarity when I woke up and made the notes on my phone. Due to circumstances at the time I accidentally erased them when I reset my phone to factory settings. I have desperately been trying to recall the details and notes of this experience since then.
I remember being on the stage and talking about M.A.G.I.C.
EVERYONE has magic inside of them.I have magic with students and you probably do too if you are an educator. If you are a writer, you have magic with your readers. People are drawn to the light inside of you. It can be annoying at times when people are drawn to you and you are an introvert but it is a GIFT.
Fellow teachers have expressed to me on multiple occasions and school corporations that I can get writing and learning from children that no one seems to be able to. It isn’t a magic spell but there is an enchantment. How do I do it? I don’t wave a wand (although I have my Harry Potter wand!) I am authentic. I see my students. I listen to them. I see them as the little people they are with their own ideas – even a kindergartener.
I am a reader and a writer and I exemplify these behaviors and students can see it. I do not ask them to do anything that I have not done myself already, or am willing to do. This is a mantra I use with adults and children. I do not believe in busy work. I believe in being transparent with students and it makes me happy. They know me, I know them. I listen to what they say and respond accordingly. I am not afraid to ask a question and not know the answer that will come from the students. I want to show students to struggle with new learning.
M= Mentor Texts-
To get to this magic you have to have use MENTOR texts. These are examples of writing you want your students to create. No adult writes a resume without Googling samples of resumes beforehand. You don’t write anything without immersing yourself in that genre. We should we expect any less from children.
A= Authority –
You need to be a writer to teach writing. You don’t have to be published but you have to go through the process or as an educator you cannot help a young writer if they get stuck. You have to know what it feels like. I worked with a teacher that told me she started to write using her own writing prompts that she was assigning to her students. There were some that were not crafted as well as they could be and were hard for her – with 40 years of life experience to draw from. She decided through that experience she needed to modify if she had trouble with the assignment prompt. Then she told the students what she had done and why. It made a huge difference.
You have to be excited about writing. There must be respect and a level of seriousness to the process. When I teach writing I use writing materials from respected writing teachers in the literary world – not the teaching world. I quoted Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, etc. I did use a lot of Nancy Atwell too. I told the students my rationale. The students saw my writers notebook. They saw when I was excited about a piece of writing I was crafting with them. In the middle of the process, if the kids made a chart or wrote the group story and it wasn’t exciting then we talked about what we could do to make it exciting for our reader. We read everything like writers. My students knew the goal was for them to be real authentic readers and writers.
Writing lessons like any other need to be planned purposefully. The mentor text to read needs to be right for the writing craft lesson. The prompt needs to align with the book and the mastery objective you want the students to glean from the lesson. There needs to be intention in the routines for your writers to establish and how their words are shared. Intention needs to be there for conferencing. Teacher and student conferencing and peer conferencing.
I wanted my students to write even when they didn’t have to so I set up centers in my classroom for exploration. Books were placed in the classroom based on interest and choice. Writing and book making materials were everywhere. Innovation is also part of this section.
Relationships and a trusting culture are essential for students to write. Writing is hard. You know this to be true whether you write or you resist writing with your students. Sharing your own writing can go a long way to create trust. Writing with kids is a great culture builder.
No matter the level I use the gradual release model. I make sure with my middle school students to always model the I DO portion, especially with writing. Then there is a small section of WE DO so students are able to show me they understand the task. Then it is off for the YOU DO.
I also carry a notebook with me almost everywhere. When I hear a student say something or I read over their shoulder I often will say “That is amazing! I am going to write that in my notebook.” Or I say, “I wish I would have written that sentence.” It is the same language I use when we are reading and I want to record something in the writer’s notebook. Then I write their words down.
Over the course of the month, I will be posted more in-depth posts about each of these sections.