Teaching Writing or Writers?

To some, writing workshop is a frightening leap off a cliff into unknown waters. It takes a lot of faith making that transition from teaching writing to teaching writers.

Some teachers are happy with their status quo. They do the same kind of writing year after year. Everyone writes the same story. In October it might be the voice of a pumpkin. In November it will inevitably be the turkey begging to be saved, and December could be a wish list to Santa. Pencil to paper, that’s writing , right? Students learn about punctuation, sentence formation, capitalization, and spacing, That’s writing, right? That is not my definition of writing.

When I go to a school and work with the teachers on writing, I want them to teach the writers in the room, not writing. I try to help them understand the difference.

Last week, I completed my second year in a school. Our focus was writing workshop. I asked the teachers to jump into the pool of teaching writers instead writing. Some started paddling, but lost stamina and reverted back to teaching writing just like before, but they are thinking about how to do it differently next year. Some were treading water, barely keeping their head above the waterline, but they stayed afloat. Next year, they will be stronger.

One teacher said, “I thought I knew how to teach writing. I thought I was pretty good. I was wrong. I didn’t know how. Now I know my kids as writers.”

“I used to hate to teach writing. Now, this is my favorite thing to teach in my day. I feel like I am actually teaching my kids how to write, ” said another teacher.

These comments fill my heart with joy.  It’s been a good year and I look forward to another year with these teachers.

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