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:
CLICK HERE: COMMON CORE STANDARDS for WRITING simplified
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.