Home' Teacher : April 2011 Contents PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 7
Stop on the threshold of a classroom where
a teacher is ru nning a successful writing
program and you'll see certain principles
that are at the heart of the teaching clearly
visible in the day-to-day operation of that
You'll see a special energy -- a genuine
spark -- because students and teachers share
the common goal of becoming expert writ-
ers. There's a unique partnership. Each
participant assumes an increasing author-
ity for personal writing outcomes. The
gradual release of responsibility is at play
in the teaching. Should you venture through
the doorway and spend time in one of these
learning environ ments, the following fac-
tors become self-evident.
Teachers write and share their own writ-
ing, process and product, with students.
They undertake the same writing expe-
riences they ask their student writers to
undertake, everything from har vesting writ-
ing ideas and identifying topics to making
their writing public. In these circumstances
teachers do not require students to do any-
thing that they themselves are not experi-
encing as writers.
When conferring with students, they
draw on their personal knowledge of writ-
ing to assist the less experienced writer to
move for ward, to grow as a writer. Teachers
teach most effectively when they share the
stories that make up their writing lives.
They humanise themselves as they expose
the twin imposters -- success and failure.
Students learn that their teacher faces prob-
lems in their writing, just like they do, and
that they have a process for 'untangling the
Teachers read extensively, so that they
may learn from the voices and vision of
professional authors and educators, and
this reading allows them to use the acquired
knowledge in their work with students.
They use this knowledge to influence atti-
tudes and outcomes.
A student's desire to write comes from
the establishment of a classroom environ-
ment that encourages risk-taking. Teachers
who write know this. The learning journey
is shared. Making discoveries and acting
upon personal interests and intentions is
valued above contrived motivational pre-
writing activities and artificial sentence
starters. The teacher knows these things
and it reflects in their words and actions.
High expectations are held for students
and teachers alike. All students are expected
to write and assume responsibility for their
writing. The teacher sets an example by
demonstrating a responsible attitude to their
personal writing life. Students feel secure,
knowing that assistance will be readily
available when requested.
The writing environment develops over
time, so students know with certainty what
is expected of them and what to expect from
their writing mentor or mentors. There is a
regular schedule for writing that involves
predictable procedures. The writing work-
shop is quarantined. It is a daily occurrence
because the teacher understands the critical
importance of consistent practice as a means
to building writing stamina. The classroom
organisation allows for the full range of
writing-related activities in which writers
engage. There's a reading area, materials
and other writing resources, computers,
places to talk, places to work independently,
to work quietly, to confer and so on.
Literatu re is linked to the teaching of
writing. A plentiful supply of the best qual-
ity literature is readily available to students,
and teachers consistently link the teaching
of reading and writing. Students understand
that to be an effective writer you must also
be a reader. The teacher continually calls on
the writing of others from mentor texts to
illustrate how a particular author achieves
a particular writing outcome that students
might like to explore for themselves. Teacher
and students alike begin to read like writers.
They view texts from this perspective. They
eventually strive to write in a way influenced
by the style of a trusted author.
Consistent monitoring of student writing
activity is embedded in the teaching rou-
tine. The teacher encourages the developing
writer to articulate their work intentions or
agenda on any given day, so that both parties
are aware of it. Young writers are encour-
aged to plan for writing. The teacher fully
understands the importance of such scaf-
folding and support for the student writer.
Continuing quality conversations are a
feature of these writing classrooms. Teachers
talk mindfully to students about their writ-
ing. When conferring, teachers encourage
students to lead the discussion. Conferences
are generally short in duration, focusing on
a specific aspect of the student's writing.
Questions are used to enable the writer to
consider what they have done and what they
want to do next. The pathway for the young
writer is clearly indicated. Reflection and
self-assessment are skills the teacher works
to develop within the young writer.
In mini-lessons that function as a kind
of tuning-in time, teachers model and dem-
onstrate craft strategies and techniques they
believe will assist their students to develop
their writing abilities. The intended purpose
of the teaching is made clear to the students.
The teaching is explicit and purposeful, and
takes into account the current needs of the
students concerned. All teaching is at the
point of need. Lessons build on students'
prior knowledge and there is an apparent
cohesiveness to the lessons. The teacher aims
to simultaneously build student competence
and confidence. A variety of group struc-
tures -- whole class, small group, partner and
individual -- are used to facilitate learning.
Adequate time and attention is assigned
to improving the content of the writing
before moving the focus to editing con-
cerns. The teacher understands that revi-
sion is the magic behind great writing and
WANT TO SEE WHAT A CLASSROOM LOOKS LIKE WHEN A TEACHER IS RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL WRITING
PROGRAM? ALAN WRIGHT SHOWS YOU WHAT AN EXCITING PLACE IT CAN BE.
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