monkey see, monkey do – great advice!

Sunday’s Teacherswrite! featured a reflection from Jenn at Fountain Reflection. She wrote about her three epiphanies related to teaching writing in the classroom. They stem from her experience writing at an institute where she realized how intimidating it is to share writing and just how difficult the writing process can be. Her third revelation really struck a chord for me.

I’ve been struggling to get my students to turn in solid writing. Sometimes completed work is so far from what I was looking for that I struggle to grade it. “Answer the following question in a well-developed paragraph…” especially coming from the social studies teacher, can baffle students.

“Does she know about capital letters?” I imagine them asking. They are always shocked and alarmed when it turns out I do.

“Wait, you’re not the English teacher. That’s English not geography. Why do we have to spell right in here?”

I actually feel apologetic when I tell them my original degree was in English. The group moan echoes down the hallway, but the writing still does not get better.

So it’s within this context that I am inspired by Jenn’s experience. She explained that teaching writing was her weakness because she wasn’t truly teaching writing; “I was telling students what to do, then correcting them when it wasn’t done correctly. I wasn’t modeling that writing is a difficult process. I wasn’t modeling what good writing should look like from beginning to end.”

Understanding how important it is for students to see the teacher doing and modeling the target task is clearly a better way to teach. Just telling them what to do inevitably leaves questions and anxiety in the minds of even the most intuitive students. Frequently, I’ve had them come in to show me work they are nervous to turn into another teacher, wondering, “Do you think this is good enough? I’m not really sure what she wants.” A clear model would give them the framework for success and cut down on the hours of correcting work that does not meet expectations.

My idea journal is filling with ideas… if you want to read more visit: Teach Mentor Texts

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