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

Realistic expectations aid growth mindset.

In my last blog post, I said talked about the need to believe that every one of your students, whether teens or adults, can and will learn to write competently in your class. 

One of the ways you can make it easier to get all your students writing competently before your course is over is to help them set realistic expectations at the very beginning of the course.

The first thing students need to know is what kind of writing you expect them to do. 

Teens’ first question is, "Why do we need to know this stuff?"

Adults have a different question. Their first question is, "Why do I need to know this stuff?"

You may be able to foist off 14-year-olds a line about college requirements and the creative thinking employers want today. Employed adults won’t fall for it. They expect to acquire skills to use right away on their jobs.

You’d better make sure your "here’s why" rings true to the bookkeeper who is studying to be a CPA and to the LPN studying to be a RN.

FYI: You’ll have far more credibility with adult students if you worked one summer in a human resources office than if your on-the-job writing experience is limited to writing lesson plans.

ABCs tell warm bodies how to teach nonfiction writing

Most people who end up teaching nonfiction writing get into it the way I did, by being the most convenient warm body the administration could find readily.Cover of The Writing Teacher's ABCs

The Writing Teacher’s ABCs: Help Teens and Adults to Competent Nonfiction Writing is for them.

The Writing Teacher’s ABCs  isn’t an “everything you need to know” book.

It’s more of a “the least you can get by with while you figure out what you’re doing” book.

I broke the big, frightening process  of teaching writing into 26 short, practical chapters, so

even if someone isn’t a great writer,
even if someone never taught nonfiction writing before, and
even if someone has  no clue where to begin,

The Writing Teacher’s ABCs will give them enough to get started and keep ahead of their students until they get the hang of teaching writing.

Get a free copy

I’m giving away copies of The Writing Teacher’s ABCs to the first 100 people who surf over to digital publisher LeanPub.com.

The book is available at LeanPub.com in pdf format for computer viewing, in EPUB for iPad and other ebook readers and phones, and in MOBI for Kindle.

Only 100 copies of the book have been set aside for this offer, so if you want a copy, don’t delay. The giveaway ends Feb. 28, 2015, if the quantity hasn’t already been exhausted.

Buyers who arrive too late to get a totally free copy,  can preview the front matter and two chapters, and then set their own price.

If that’s not good enough, there’s a 45-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee.

You can Tweet about the book using the hashtag #abcwrite .

ABCs tell warm bodies how to teach nonfiction writing

Most people who end up teaching nonfiction writing get into it the way I did, by being the most convenient warm body the administration could find readily.Cover of The Writing Teacher's ABCs The Writing Teacher’s ABCs: Help Teens and Adults to Competent Nonfiction Writing is for them. The Writing Teacher’s ABCs  isn’t an "everything you need to know" book. It’s more of a "the least you can get by with while you figure out what you’re doing" book. I broke the big, frightening process  of teaching writing into 26 short, practical chapters, so

even if someone isn’t a great writer, even if someone never taught nonfiction writing before, and even if someone has  no clue where to begin,

The Writing Teacher’s ABCs will give them enough to get started and keep ahead of their students until they get the hang of teaching writing.

Get a free copy

I’m giving away copies of The Writing Teacher’s ABCs to the first 100 people who surf over to digital publisher LeanPub.com. The book is available at LeanPub.com in pdf format for computer viewing, in EPUB for iPad and other ebook readers and phones, and in MOBI for Kindle. Only 100 copies of the book have been set aside for this offer, so if you want a copy, don’t delay. The giveaway ends Feb. 28, 2015, if the quantity hasn’t already been exhausted. Buyers who arrive too late to get a totally free copy,  can preview the front matter and two chapters, and then set their own price. If that’s not good enough, there’s a 45-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee. You can Tweet about the book using the hashtag #abcwrite .