Focus instruction on the middle

Most classroom writing instruction is aimed at the upper 20% of the class. Instruction in writing should be aimed at the “average kid” in the class.

By instruction, I don’t mean teaching.

I’m using instruction here to mean the presentation of terminology and directions that students need to know, understand, and recall in order to benefit from teaching and/or to learn on their own. In a writing class, there is very little information about writing that must be presented by the teacher to enable hands-on skill learning to begin.

By average kid, I don’t mean people under 18 with an IQ of 100.

Most classes have a core group who usually display about the same interest, motivation, and effort and get roughly the same grades. Probably 75% or more of students in any class fall into that core group.  That core group is what I mean by average kid, not some statistical construct. The average kid in your third period class and the average kid in your fourth period class may have little in common except you as their teacher.

If you can teach that core group to write, you also get the better-than-average kids to write, which leaves you only a few students who need more than your average amount of help.

However, if you don’t make sure that your average kids have a thorough understanding of the few terms and concepts underlying writing, you will have almost no success teaching any of your students to write.