iStock/Getty (This is the final post in a two-part series. You can see Part One here .)
The new question-of-the-week is:
What is the single most effective instructional strategy you have used to teach writing?
In Part One , Jenny Vo, Michele Morgan, and Joy Hamm shared wisdom gained from their teaching experience.
Today, Regie Routman, Luiza Mureseanu, and Jeremy Hyler “wrap up” the series. ‘Teaching Writers— Not Teaching Writing’
Regie Routman is an educational leader, mentor, coach, and teacher who is passionate about improving the literacy and learning lives of all learners. For full information on Regie’s many books, articles, podcasts, videos, and resources—and to contact her—go to www.regieroutman.org and @regieroutman on Twitter and Facebook:
Let’s first define what we mean by strategy. Typically, strategy refers to a method and/or intentional action that leads to a desired outcome. I suggest we amend that definition to: A strategy is a deliberate, thoughtful action that contributes to the learner’s positive mindset and competency regarding achieving a desired goal or task.
The latter definition makes the learner central and evolves from a lifetime of teaching and learning in underperforming schools. If we apply that definition, the single most effective strategy to successfully teach writing is: Focus on the writer first and the writing second.
In my most recent book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence and Equity for All Learners, I deliberately titled the chapter on writing “Teaching Writers” — not “Teaching Writing.” That is because we teach learners; each one is a unique human being. If we want each learner to excel in what we are attempting to teach them, then authentically engaging with the learner — not just the piece of writing—must be highest priority. Here’s why.
Writing can be difficult, messy, unpredictable work—even under favorable circumstances. Because we start with a blank page or blank screen, we feel vulnerable. As writers, we have to conjure up on our own what to put in those blank spaces. It’s scary for many and requires a courageous, risk-taking spirit along with stamina and support. Then add in the social and emotional issues in these uncertain times when many of us—students, teachers, families — are feeling scared, lonely, and isolated. All of the aforementioned requires we strive to make personal and positive human connections front and center of all teaching and learning, regardless of where the teaching and learning are situated—whether it’s in person or at a distance.
As well, equity issues are now—as they have always been—paramount to expert teaching and joyful learning. Depending on how we teach, respond to, and assess writing, writing can be the vehicle to a learner’s success or an area where we do actual harm. Uppermost in our minds when we confer and interact with a writer must be the goal of leaving the writer intact and hopeful, that is, with a sense of self-worth and an “I can do it!” spirit that propels the learner forward with dignity and energy to do “the work.”