Learning to Write / Writing to Learn is a collection of structures and strategies that evolved as I had to adapt my teaching to changing circumstances over the 30 years I spent as a classroom teacher.  Some ideas seemed to stick – and others fell away. The best way I can put it now is that L2W/W2L is what stuck.


When I started teaching 4th grade in 1968, I fell in love with “teaching” creative writing.  At some point along the way, however, I realized that writing – and certainly creativity – cannot be taught.  Rather, it is the job of the teacher to create an environment within which students can experience themselves as writers. Once that happens, the teacher’s role becomes one of guiding and modeling for young writers.  If too much “teaching” happens before a child has discovered the joy of writing, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to ever convince that person that writing is a natural process – accessible to everyone.


In the 1980’s I became even more excited about writing.  My district sponsored a series of workshops through the UCLA Writing Project, and for the first time in my life I began to experience myself as a writer.  Not only that, since I had moved from a self-contained elementary classroom to teaching five 8th grade English classes each day, I began learning from my students what they needed in order to grow as writers.


Unfortunately the educational climate shifted in the 1990’s, and the excitement that I was feeling the previous decade was becoming harder and harder to maintain. Test scores became the gold standard for assessing student success, and by 1998 I realized that the structures and strategies that I had incorporated into my teaching were going to be replaced by mandated scripted programs that were “evidence-based” promising to boost test scores.  No one seemed care about how students felt about writing – or whether or not they would continue to write after the test.


I left classroom teaching in 1998 and had the opportunity to develop writing workshops for teachers.  For over 15 years I’ve been thinking about how I might eventually compile all of that material into a book – but since it is not a linear program I’ve never come up with a central focus – until now.


We’ve all been hearing a lot about the Common Core so I finally decided to try to find out what all the commotion is about.  Since I’m mainly interested in writing, I went directly to this page:  Anchor Standards / Writing / K-12


The first thing that amazed me about this page was that there are only 10 standards that are grouped into 4 categories. The only problem as I see it is that the standards are written in that rare dialect called “Educationeze” and it takes a bit of effort to wade through the verbiage and figure out what they really mean.

Also amazing to me is that if people would take the time to translate the standards into simple English, they might see that all the commotion is really “much ado about nothing.”  Here is my first attempt at simplification:




So now, I think I finally have a focus for Learning to Write / Writing to Learn. After simplifying the standards I realized that not only are they in the wrong order … they are not really “standards.”  They are COMPETENCIES; they are what students should know and be able to do before they leave school.


My plan for this website is to archive, in no particular order, the documents that I’ve created – or adapted – over the years to use with students, or with teachers in staff development workshops. Some of the documents that I will post may still have some of my “notes to self” … but that will change as I re-read and edit. I’m using this site as a first draft, so I welcome questions, comments – or any feedback you might have for me.

4 Responses to About Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. I imagined myself as a frustrated teacher feeling in the dark because, as per usual, ANOTHER set of educationeze has been invented just as I was getting good at the last politically invented educationeze and now I have to take on this challenge yet again and “throw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak.

    The first section put me at ease because it is clear you understand my frustration and my fear of the unknown. You affirm for me that I am not stupid I, like almost all veteran teachers, have become multi-lingual, learning the many languages of Fed and State educational mandates.

    Now that I have relaxed a bit and know I am not alone I can take a look at how you have synthesized the common core standards into what can be used in a real world classroom with real world students.

    I, for one, have often longed for national common core standards instead of trying to write state standards that look nothing like the standards of the state next door. There was a time when New Mexico writing standards were assessed every summer by real teachers who took the summer job of reading student tests and applying a rubric to assess, individually, each piece of student writing submitted. Next door in Arizona they opted for computer assessment of writing. As a result… Arizona was consistently scoring higher in writing as compared to New Mexico. (Not that I would trust the outcome of a test because I have been a teacher and I know how circumstances change day to day for students, especially on testing day.) My point is, in terms of “states rights” and “state control” it is a nice idea but not in a global sense. Our students have to be able to read repair manuals when I have my car in the shop and someone has to write those so that the mechanic in China can understand it as well as my mechanic in Brookings. IMHO

    • Thank you, Berma. I so appreciate feedback from someone like you who has worked at so many levels in the system and has such a broad focus. I’m feeling my way into who my audience is for my writing and I’m not really sure yet. Part of me is writing to the overwhelmed third grade teacher with 2 kids at home … and the other part is writing for Arne Duncan!!!

      I think I’ll stick with the third grade teacher …. it’s easier 😉

  2. Putting your experience, knowledge and previous writing into today’s goals in education is now your niche. You are ready to show and give to the world how to educate effectively. Keep moving until you reach your goal!!

    • Thanks, Linda! Yikes! I look at the date on your reply and am a bit taken back. Part of me, however, has decided that my “Muse” has been keeping me from putting some of my ideas “out there” too early. I’ve had so much fun “working” on this “book” for the past 30 years …. and gratefully I’ve got another 30 years finish it! (LOL?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *