As a classroom teacher and instructional reading/language arts coach for thirty years, I attended countless writing workshops in which programs were touted as “research based,” “data driven,” and “best practices.”
Maybe they were.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why, if the programs were so great, did our students’ writing scores continue to remain stagnant. Why didn’t the graphic organizers, anchor charts, mentor texts, mini lessons, writing traits, and lesson plans, significantly move the needle on the writing scale to a higher level?
There’s a joke floating around the internet: I bought my friend an elephant for his room. He said, “Thanks.” I said, “Don’t mention it.”
The elephant in the language arts classroom is that many teachers aren’t adequately prepared to teach writing. Professional development workshops are generally designed with the assumption that since teachers are college educated, they know how to write, and all they need are ideas to pass along to their students.
Yet a number of teachers have confided in me that writing is their weakness, and they aren’t sure how to teach it. Their lack of confidence likely stems from the fact that teachers are required to teach the two genres they seldom, if ever, practice writing: essays and narratives. Most teachers haven’t written an essay since college. And how often does the average teacher sit down to write a story with a plot, characters, setting, conflict, and a resolution?
Without proper training and instruction, teachers are left to rely on quirky, unconventional teaching methods they picked up at a PD training or found on the internet–methods they would never consider using when they write.
A Meat & Potatoes Approach to Teaching Writing is a creative writing workshop I developed, based on my years of experience as a language arts teacher, instructional coach, university writing instructor, and an award-winning author. It is aimed at helping elementary and middle-school teachers strengthen their writing skills in the genres most commonly taught in the classroom. Throughout the day, participants practice writing essays, stories, personal narratives, and poetry. They also get a refresher course on grammar usage and other writing conventions.
By analyzing and sharing their work, participants gain new insights on how to teach their students to:
- hook their readers
- create engaging stories
- write dialogue
- build believable characters
- show, don’t tell
- avoid writing “grocery list” personal narratives
- go beyond the five-paragraph essay
- elaborate on their ideas
- use specific words to enhance their work
- find their writer’s voice
- decide on a point of view
- revise & edit their drafts
- make reading/writing connections
The philosophical principle, Occam’s Razor, states: “One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.” In A Meat & Potatoes Approach to Teaching Writing, I’ve locked away the gimmicky strategies, the jargon, and the convoluted explanations, and have replaced them with straightforward, doable ideas teachers can use in their classrooms and see immediate, positive results.
For information on how to schedule a workshop, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org