Saturday, June 6, 2009

Teaching Writing: You Be The Expert

The theme of my newsletter this week is Teaching Writing to Year 1-2 and I have to admit that the process of learning to write remains a mystery to me despite teaching for 25 years. Teaching kids is not like fixing computers. There are no zeros and ones, just a lot of shades of grey. My error rate in teaching writing would obviously be lower say, than in performing brain surgery, but there were always kids in my class that I couldn't motivate no matter what I tried. For this reason I am quite wary of Literacy experts (or any experts wearing ties for that matter for it was their sophisticated models that provided our present economic mess) telling me what works. So please take my suggestions with an equal grain of salt. There is no one solution suitable for every student. One tip is to try as much as possible to provide kids with an authentic and meaningful purpose for writing. Telling them they have to write because they will need it when they grow up just doesn't cut it any more. Plumbers earn as much as doctors in Australia and I don't know many who write poetry in their spare time. There needs to be a more immediate reward. Why not try publishing student writing in a book or on the Internet? Why not appeal to their egos? Advertisers do it to us every day. And finally, get the kids to write copious amounts every single day and don't worry if you can't correct it all. You don't have the time. Better to let them write more, than hold them back until you covered it in red ink. My writing improved significantly when I was writing essays every night. It took my a while to work out that it is like learning to surf. You have to do it every day if you want to improve. Have strict rules for editing work that is to be published and don't worry about what isn't published. Reflect also on how many hand written letters you have posted this week. The sooner the kids have computers on their desks the better. Have a look at the links I have provided for you this week and see if you can find anything that might work in your classroom. Keep an open mind and keep trying out new ideas. It is more art than science. You be the expert.


  1. It is great to read things like this, because I think writing is becoming too prescriptive.

  2. Great to read because I sometimes wonder if writing is becoming too prescriptive.