Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Five Writing Tips for Grades 3-8

Steven Layne is an author, lecturer, and associate professor who is passionate about books and literacy. If you get the chance to see him speak, RUN to where he is! And if you are on the look-out for a gift for a special language teacher in your life, look no further than this little gem of a book.

At the Michigan Reading Association annual conference this year, I had the privilege to hear Steven Layne for the second time. His presentation was on five writing tips and you can find a handout at his website: stevelayne.com

You will find many other good resource on Steven Layne's website. But in case you don't have time to look right now, let me outline his 5 writing tips in a nutshell:

1. Don't have students write a whole piece all the time.
Don't grade a complete piece all the time.
In other words, if you are working on creating good leads, have students write a variety of good leads without any plans for finishing them. And even if students do write a complete piece, you can choose certain elements to look for in assessing.

2. Use samples (including poor ones) often. Write your own.
This is one piece of advice that I see many teachers overlook. Students need to see samples of what we are asking them to write. Save samples over the years and look for samples in your reading. Look for mentor texts to share with students.

3. Write with them.
If you are asking them to write it, you should write it first. And don't worry if you think your writing isn't any good. I don't think that Shaq's coaches can play ball as well as he, but they can still coach him to play better!

4. Write in response to literature.
Doing this with students helps them to think deeper about what they are reading. And if you happen to be a content teacher, get them writing in response to math and science and social studies too! Writing is thinking!

5. Write for authentic audiences; together or separately.
Find ways to make writing real. Create a class blog to give your students a world-wide audience. Write letters: to the editor, to authors, to politicians, etc. Create class-made books to put in local doctor and dentist offices. Open up your thinking to come up with other ideas.

You can see that these are not Earth-shattering ideas. But if you follow these tips, you might see some Earth-shattering writing from your students! HAPPY WRITING!

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