Is this any way to teach writing teachers?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why American educators do such a poor job teaching people to teach students to do the kind of writing everybody must do, which is what the Common Core State Standards call informative and explanatory texts and arguments.

An article that I clipped from from Teaching/Writing: The Journal of Writing Teacher Education last year gave me some insights.

The article¹ discusses a research project undertaken by two University of Alabama education faculty, Latrise P. Johnson and Elizabeth P. Eubanks.

Basically what they did was teach a summer class for seven students seeking their secondary education certification in English Language Arts and took notes.  They used nearby Eastern High School as a place for students to try out their skills.

The high school offered a summer bridge program for rising ninth graders. The high school was willing to participate because its principal wanted to see his faculty improve as writing teachers and his incoming ninth graders learn to write better.

Two English teachers, who wanted to improve their writing instruction and were working in the bridge program, partnered with the researchers to teach the pre-service teachers. Prior to the program, the two experienced teachers taught writing by assigning  prompts and giving feedback on grammar and mechanics, the article says.

The UA students, their professor, and the two high school teachers constituted a “community of practice.”

To begin the course, the UA professor modeled a lesson on the “anthem essay” (a sample essay posted at for the pre-service teachers.

Then the seven students delivered the same lesson to their fellow class members.

The students worked among themselves, with their professor, and the collaborating teachers to improve their lesson presentation before they presented it to students.

After students taught their lesson, they evaluated their teaching and discussed with their  community of practice  ways to improve the lesson.

According to the article, at the conclusion of the course, the preservice students were able to take the downloaded content and

  • “revise handouts, create new ones”
  • decide “which parts of the anthem essay lesson were most important to teach and learn”
  • select “the delivery method and curriculum presentation that they were most comfortable with”
  • “negotiate their identities as teachers and as teachers of writing.”

What I didn’t see in the article was anything about whether the two high school teachers learned how to teach writing better, or whether the students in the bridge program learned to write better, or what the education professors expected students to do in the classroom the 179 days they weren’t teaching the anthem essay.

All I saw was a handful of green teachers being taught to pull a lesson off the Internet and make it fit the way they like to present.

If that’s a way to achieve better teaching of writing, I’ll re-negotiate my identity as a teacher of writing.

¹Johnson, Latrise P. and Eubanks, Elizabeth P. (2015) “One Good Lesson, Community of Practice Model for Preparing Teachers of
Writing,” Teaching/Writing: The Journal of Writing Teacher Education: Vol. 4: Iss. 2, Article 8.
Available at:

The accidental writing teacher

Most teachers who write to me about their challenges teaching nonfiction writing say they walked into their first writing class feeling totally unprepared.

Research into the experiences of American teachers shows my correspondents are fairly representative.

My latest book, The Writing Teacher’s ABCs: Help Teens and Adults to Competent Nonfiction Writing, is for them and others like them.

Here’s how to get it free

Beginning this coming Sunday, Feb. 15,  I’ll be giving away free copies on Twitter to the first 100 readers who scoop up the offer.

If you want a free copy, look for me @LindaAragoni  and the hashtag #ABCwrite on Twitter on Sunday.

The book is already available on LeanPub, where readers can skim the contents and read a couple of chapters.

The offer expires when 100 people have gotten free copies or on Feb 28, 2015, whichever comes first.