How to teach writing better

How well you teach writing to teens and adults boils down to whether you use practices that facilitate students’ learning or whether you use practices that either don’t help students develop writing skill or actively inhibit their developing writing skill.

Writing isn’t learned in the same way a subject such as history is learned by accumulating facts and concepts and making them fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Students certainly have to master some facts and concepts, but a student only learns to write when that students puts the pieces together to produce an image that looks like the idea in that student’s mind.

person at start of path to distant place

Choose best practices instead of poor ones

You facilitate students’ mastery of writing by choosing teaching practices that help all students learn to write. Below are what I think are the top 10 most important choices you can make as a writing teacher if you want all your students to become competent writers:

Number 1: Concentrate on teaching your average students. Don’t focus just on your best students. Average students will make up the majority of your students. Your best students will need little, if any, help. The poorest students require short periods of help frequently and positive reinforcement for small successes.

Number 2: Coach and mentor all your students. Don’t coach and mentor only your best students.

Number 3: Give every student individual attention. Don’t concentrate your attention on your presentations. You can accomplish a great deal in a one-minute chat with a student.

Number 4. Teach for realistic tasks. Don’t teach to artificial tests.

Number 5. Focus on having students learn to write. Don’t focus on having students enjoy class.

Number 6. Teach to authentic tests. Don’t teach to bubble tests.

Number 7. Evaluate according to students’ writing skill. Don’t evaluate by students’ enjoyment.

Number 8. Stress interconnections of content. Don’t teach pieces of content in isolation.

Number 9. Demand competence from all students by the course end. Don’t accept not-yet-competent work from some at the course end.

Number 10. Respond to student writing. Don’t correct student writing.

There are other practices that will make it easier for you to teach a group of teens or adults to write competently, but I’ll save them for other days.

© 2021 Linda G. Aragoni