Writing is considered one of the most challenging lessons to teach. Generally, students love to share their ideas through speaking, but putting their thoughts into writing can be a struggle.
We often see that students effectively convey their thoughts orally and also participate actively during discussion time in class. However, when they are asked to organize their thoughts in any writing form or on graphic organizers, they are typically lost for words.
Primarily, the writing process involves various stages. They is prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. The process can be introduced at an early age and enriched as the students move on to higher levels.
Writing involves developing skills and conventions necessary to construct clear coherent written texts. Exemplars for teaching writing as a whole class or in small groups can be modeled on text structure and language features.
As we introduce students to different text types, it is best to show exemplars and discuss the purpose of writing, text structure and language features. For example, for a recount, the text structure would be …
Title: “When was the last time you felt proud of yourself?”
Orientation: When? Who? Where? Why?
Sequence of events: What happened?
Personal comment: How did the events make the writer feel?
The language features of a recount would include nouns, adjectives, past tense verbs, adverbs, adverbial phrases, time and sequence words.
Here is one of my student’s work.
The topic was introduced by trying out mini lessons on orientation, sequence of events and conclusion with a personal comment on separate days. Initially, students were asked to brainstorm on the recount topic and make a mind map. Then the first draft was written, which was then revised by the student based on the descriptive feedback and the conferencing. The final writing was definitely a very satisfying form showing progress over the first draft.
Modeling is another effective way of teaching writing. Teachers should model to create a good piece of writing by thinking out loud.
Another mode would be trying out mini lessons, which are about 10 to 12 minutes long, with explicit instruction and allowing the students to pick baby steps which will lead the learner to the next needed skill. Anchor charts, rubrics, and exemplars are a great way to make thinking visible in this method. The use of anchor charts, rubrics, and exemplars helps in developing links between student’s understanding of the writing process and language structures.
Conferencing is another crucial element which can be done one on one, or through planned or unplanned small group conferences at the table. It can be completed in about five to seven minutes or it may extend to up to 10 minutes. The first half of the conferencing involves the student sharing his/her thoughts and explaining what he/she has written. The student does most of the talking and the teacher listens carefully, takes notes and asks a few questions. In the second half of the conferencing, the student gets to listen more as the teacher helps the student by teaching the next needed skill to refine his/her writing.
Steps in a conference include primarily a compliment to acknowledge what the child has done. In conferencing, the teacher also decides the teaching point that needs to be taught to move the learner to the next level. This will enable the learner to recognize, name and extend his/her own ideas.
These are a few methods that we, as teachers, can introduce in our classroom to enhance students’ writing. In addition, teacher support provides opportunities for developing writers to take increasing responsibility for revising and editing their own writing. Through constant guidance and encouragement, we can see progress in our students’ writing.
By: Sujatha Sreenivasan
Grade 4 Class Teacher and Level Head
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug