Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Write in the Middle
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Write in the Middle
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Listen to the Experts: Tom Romano's Reflections

Workshop 1: Creating a Community of Writers

Giving students time to write

I think to have a good writing program at middle level the kids have to have time to write. You've got to carve out chunks of time in your language arts classroom so that kids can actually be putting pen to paper. If you don't do that, if you do the due-Friday method where you make a writing assignment Monday and then it's kind of a mystery what happens, and it's due on Friday, it's not going to work. The good kids, the kids who are talented, you know, they'll write something; but those kids that need a lot of support, it won't happen.

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Getting ideas on paper, then crafting the writing

First, I want to get kids with the feeling that they can express themselves on paper at the top of their lungs and that they don't have to look back. There is language in them, it's there to be called upon, and I want to get them to throw it out on paper and not worry about how it looks.

William Stafford, the late William Stafford, said, "Lower your standards if you're having trouble writing." And he said, "If you still can't write you need to lower your standards more." So I show kids my drafts, my handwritten drafts, my typed drafts that have all kinds of typos in them because I don't go back and correct when I'm trying to trust the gut. That's when I want kids to get a writing state of mind and to not hesitate to put words on paper.

The other thing that I think is true about writing is crafting writing. When I talk about voice in student writing, I'm with two minds. Part of me says trust the gut, go with it, say the word, truth. The other part of me says, okay, now after you've done that let's talk about craft a little bit, let's talk about how strong verbs work, let's talk about how dialogue works. I mean, there's 180 crafts lesson that you could do. So trust the gut and craft.

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Reading-writing connection

When they write, they read. I mean, you can't write without reading. I mean, we're always talking about reading and how we respond to text, but I also want to get my students reading the books that demonstrate things that they can do. So, for example, in the middle school level I would have those kids reading plenty of young adult literature at their grade level so that they could try the same things that these authors are trying. And if, you know, when you move farther along in middle school and then on up into high school it seems like kids more and more write about what they have read and they write about it in an expository way, and I think that if we do that without having kids read plenty of expository writing about literature then we're short-circuiting a huge teachable aspect of writing, and that is learning from what we read. So we can't ever stop that. We've got to read what we're going to write. Best way to write poetry is to immerse yourself in poetry, and then you'll start to write poetry.

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