- Sep 2017
After about third grade, very little time is devoted to explicit writing instruction
Not at Countryside Middle School!
Our Literature and Writing Workshop rigorously maintains focus and practice time devoted to writing, from grammar, style, and technique, to active writing and publication (sharing) in formal and informal modes. Writing and active focus on writing are daily efforts.
Should a parent correct a child’s writing, or just be encouraging?
This is the ten million dollar question with a vending-machine answer: The work is the child's. It must be the child's entirely if the goal is to develop and hone writing skills. Loving parents might and often do get too involved.
It does the young writer zero good to lose control of a written work (and it feels terrible even if never admitted—I was one of those kids). That problem is compounded when the teacher reads a twelve year old's assignment that looks too much (or entirely like) the bona-fide polished work of a mature writer with several college degrees. The teacher is not impressed and the process breaks down, for she or he is supposed to be evaluating and coaching a middle school writer on genuinely warty, often needy middle school writing.
It does a young writer zero good to be a "middle man" left to watch back and forth between adults when the writing at the center is not the student's. A teacher can't minister to a young writer's real needs and the student can't learn if it's not the student's real writing at undergoing the writing workshop processes.
analyzing text does make a difference
There is reading and there is active reading. I support both but in appropriate settings. Everyone should enjoy ample time just reading for pleasure, escape. When reading for a specific purpose the foundation of which is understanding, we must be active readers—even while the process can still be enjoyable.
Reading actively takes additional effort and concentration, often with note taking (or annotation in a cool web-markup tool like this!), and purposeful thought about what is said, how, and why.
start talking about persuasive essays or an informative paper
We do this work a great deal—we don't use these labels "persuasive essay," "informative paper" because (a) outside of school nobody at all uses these terms for real writing and (b) such labels tend to mystify and ossify thinking about writing in ways that aren't helpful. We focus on purpose, technique, sign-posting and evidence, and more in the composition of many types of writing like these and others.
writing assignments to work on at home
Because we devote 3/5 of all class periods explicitly to in-class writing instruction and independent, guided writing time (and the other 2/5 involve our writing at least indirectly by working with other texts which we read and analyze for writing about), we aim to minimize the writing done at home.
By design, students have time at school to write, revise, consult with the teacher, critique the writing of others, and write some more. When writing is done at home, it is intended to be as overflow when more than what's available in class is needed.
There's a magical dynamic here. When student writers know they will have adequate time for writing in class, supported, scaffolded for their needs, and that what they don't get done in school must be done at home, they tend to use school time better. Writing workshops become focused, intentional, productive spaces where tons of learning and growth occur.
Is my kid writing at school
Yes, at Countryside Middle School, we do this in a nearly unbroken stream of constructive activities.
middle and high school, the most common activities are fill-in-the-blanks on worksheets, writing single sentences, making lists or writing a paragraph summary
Nope. Not at Countryside Middle School. We write, scrutinize, revise, share, and write more. Our students learn to consider, brainstorm, draft, revise with feedback, finalize, and share in many formal and other modes, primarily at school in a controlled and closely monitored learning environment.
Kids are constantly creating text when they are at home. They tweet, they text, they Facebook. Each of those has its own rules
Writing in formal modes like essays, responses to literature, book reviews, etc., have their own rules and expectations, but they're not by a thousand miles the only kinds of writing that people do or that have importance.
Kids (like adults) are increasingly social-media writers. It may seem at times that these modes are the Wild West with lawlessness and emoticons, but there are rules and expectations—particularly concerning positive interactions and relationship building as good digital citizens.
with them about the author’s craft
This is the primary purpose for readings of all kinds selected in my English/language arts curriculum. All reading done for class purposes is intended to be active reading.
With younger readers like middle schoolers, this doesn't always come easily and part of the comprehensive process is to teach the skills involved in active reading while reinforcing their value.