By Kelly Boswell, author of Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing.
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Right now, many of us are navigating new remote teaching platforms, new ways of building classroom community, and new ways of assessing and responding to students’ academic and emotional needs.
Amid all of this, though, I believe we can keep the teaching of writing streamlined, simple, purposeful, and unfussy. I also believe we can help student writers rediscover their voice, their enthusiasm and their confidence.
The Power of Modeling
For many, demonstrations are more powerful than descriptions. It’s why so many of us turn to YouTube or other video sources when learning something new. Whether you’re teaching face-to-face or remotely, modeling really matters.
The most powerful thing that writing teachers can do for student writers is to crack open their thinking and make the invisible process of writing visible. Kids need to know how an expert writer (that’s you!) gets an idea from their head to the page. Don Graves (2002) put it this way:
“Top teachers reach to the heart of what they are trying to say and talk aloud about this search, so that students can witness the process of one’s heart coming alive in one’s own words.”
3 Modeling Strategies:
Here are some ways to reimagine what modeling your own thinking and writing could look like when you are teaching remotely. These are all simple adjustments that can have a big payoff for student writers.
If you’re teaching from your classroom (while students watch synchronously or asynchronously) use and easel and chart paper to model your thinking and writing – much like you would in person.
If you’re teaching older students who keyboard as they write, use the whiteboard function of the digital platform or simply share your screen as you open a Word document. In this way, you can type a bit of your writing in front of students, stopping often to think, reread, revise, and change.
For younger students, who aren’t yet keyboarding, try moving your camera to a birds-eye-view so that kids can see your writing from above. Or, if all else fails, think aloud as you write (using a table in front of you) and then periodically hold your writing up to the camera so that kids can see what you have written so far.
Whichever way you choose to show kids your thinking and writing, do keep it oh-so-simple-and-brief. If possible, keep your modeling to 5 or 10 minutes, max. You don’t need to write your whole piece in front of kids—even a few sentences is enough for them to see and hear your thinking.
Keep it clear, concise, focused and to-the-point.
• • •To learn move about Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing visit Heinemann.com.
Kelly Boswell has many years of experience as a classroom teacher, staff developer, literacy coach, and district literacy specialist. She is the author of many books, including several nonfiction children’s books. Kelly works with schools and districts around the country to support educational leaders, coaches, and teachers. Her emphasis is on developing literacy practices that help students become joyful and passionate readers and writers. Follow her on Twitter @KellyMBoswell.