February 19

What makes a good writer?

When I was in the classroom, I often was asked, “How do you get your student writers to be so good at writing?”  Trust me, they were not good writers by accident!  They were good writers because we wrote – A LOT!  In my class, students wrote every single day.  It was a requirement.  They knew it from day one.

At first, they grumbled a lot and some were quite resistant.  After a week or two, it became something that they knew could not be avoided and they accepted it.  After a month or so, they looked forward to writing time.  How did we get to that point?  By writing – A LOT!

You see, as the eighth grade English/Language Arts/Reading teacher, I was charged with getting those students ready to write on-demand for the state assessment.  The state writing assessment carried a lot of weight.  It counted as 25% of the middle school state report card’s accountability score.  Then, their state standardized ELA/Reading score counted 25% of the remaining 75% with math, science, and social studies scores rounding out the remainder of that 75%.  Therefore, performance in my class was important for the entire school – for sixth and seventh grades as well as the eighth grade.  So, in my class, students wrote – A LOT!

Times have changed when it comes to accountability scoring but the emphasis on being a good writer is still important for all grade levels and accountability reporting.  For that reason, students still need to write – A LOT!

To this day, I always look for writing inspiration that I can share with teachers to help develop their student writers.  Oh, there is more to developing writers than just challenging them to put words on a page, for certain.  Students need a mini-lesson on a regular basis to help guide them in knowing the conventions of the language – grammar, spelling, mechanics, etc.  They also need to read continually and especially to read and discuss good writing.  After all, without a model, learning is just trial and error and schools today do not have time to allow for a lot of trial and error – some, yes, but not a lot.  Guiding and developing student writers is an on-going task for any teacher in any content area.  However, the most important ingredient to the recipe for developing good student writers is to have expectations for writing – A LOT.

Today, I revisited a site that I have enjoyed periodically as inspirational – something that inspires me to be more appreciative of my blessings and encourages me to strive toward being a better person.  As I read a couple of stories today, my thought was, “Wow!  Wouldn’t this be a great model for student writers?  Some student writers could use this as a model and run with it.  They could become noticers and voices to tell bits of another’s story.”  Sometimes what a person needs to rejuvenate his/her writing life is a bit of inspiration.  So, my suggestion for today is, share Humans of New York with your students and maybe one or two might be inspired to develop his or her own Humans of… series, sharing an interesting bit of someone else’s story.

Write on!

And, write – A LOT!