I am not feeling very bloggy this week, but I feel part of a blogger is making a commitment to keep posting even if you aren’t feeling it. This just week I was explaining to my students that with writing, sometimes you feel it and sometimes you don’t, and sometimes, if you have an assignment due, you just have to force it out. I said this while I was modeling writing an essay for them.
I think this is one of the most important things a writing teacher can do–model writing and the method a writer uses to improve an essay. Students often think that writing should flow right out of their pen (or keyboard), in order. They think that good writers just whip things out and it’s good from the start. Some can, of course, but that is rare. Most people jot a few things down, revise, come back, revamp, add, delete, etc. many times before something is ready for grading or publication.
I show them my very first draft. I purposely make it pretty bad to start with, usually a stream of consciousness type of thing (not unlike this blog now that I think about it). If I show them a final draft, most cannot relate to me as a writer. However, seeing that I start with something not-so-impressive helps them to see that in time, essays can go from horrible to great.
Then, I do some revising while they watch me on the projection screen. I think aloud while I write. It takes some practice for them. In the beginning, when I pause, they start shouting out ideas. I explain that I’m not pausing because I want help; I’m pausing to think. I explain my struggles with words, I consult a thesaurus or dictionary, I delete and/or add large sections, etc. I change my mind a lot. Sometimes instead of talking my way through it I just write. I also work on sections out of order, write myself little notes in the margins, and flag areas that I know I need to work on later.
I spend maybe 5 minutes doing this before we move on to something else. Every few days, I show them more of my progress, and do a little writing. I typically work on one essay for all three classes of a grade level, so I don’t have much to do outside of class. Each class gets to watch me do a little part of it at each step. I always share my final draft and place it in a folder where they can look at it whenever they want, along with essays I’ve written in previous years. As their writing teacher, it’s important for my students to see me as a writer. Praise God I only teach junior high because I’m not sure my writing is beyond that level!
If you are a writing teacher and you haven’t written in front of your students, you really need to start. I think it’s one of the most valuable teaching strategies for writing teachers!