So, I’ve been thinking about teaching writing. This coming school year I will be teaching some 12th grade English electives, each a semester long. And, this past summer I attended a fantastic 4 morning workshop on teaching writing. Now I’m in planning mode and thinking how will I put into action all the great ideas and information I learned.
First of all, one of our sessions was led by a retired teacher who taught in a public school system, 5 sections of 30ish students and each year he had his high school seniors writing the following:
- 28 in class writings
- 32 poetry papers (some in class I think)
- 6 process papers (multiple drafts)
And they read 3 novels, 3 plays, and 50 some poems.
Holy grading nightmare, Batman! We were all blown away by the sheer volume of writing the students did. Lots of the student writing was “holistically graded” using the AP scoring rubric. He contends that students get better at writing by writing, not as much by teachers giving a million edits and comments on a handful of multiple draft big papers. I would say I definitely saw that when I taught 5th grade. The years that I had students writing short responses to all sorts of things on our class blog, I saw student writing get better and students become more comfortable sitting down to write. It became less intimidating.
So, back to my goals for my seniors. I’m certainly not ready to leap to our presenter’s expert level in one go. He stressed the critical skill of being able to grade holistically quickly, consistently, and effectively. Something to work towards. However, I am looking at my schedule and trying to plan writing opportunities every week or rotation. Of course, I also had already planned all sorts of other things. For example, I want to have students doing more leading of discussions, which takes class time to practice. Plus, I think I’m going to do some of the writing in an online forum format. The addition of an audience, even if only classmates, is powerful. As I think about how to balance writing and grading, I plan to have students choose some of these short writings to edit a bit and then submit for more formal grading, and some will remain as ungraded, but not necessarily unread or reviewed. I’ve got a rubric ready for feedback for forum posts. I’ve got the AP scoring guide ready to share as well.
Here are the other items I already in the course in terms of writing. We will be writing one significant analytical paper, multiple drafts, longer length. I also have planned a podcast project for the end of the course.
So, how much should I have students writing in class, online, at home? Any thoughts are welcome.