We've been holding one-day meetings with each grade level K-5 in our district to talk about building proficient writers. The State of Utah has adopted the new Common Core and teachers are concerned about how to help students become skilled, fluent, confident writers.  As I reflect on my growth as a teacher of writing over the past twenty-two years, I realize I was lucky to have begun my journey in second grade.  When I learned about Writing Workshop, I was convinced my students needed to write more and learn to think and live like writers.  So, we started writing up a storm.  Was I worried about their use of mechanics, skills, grammar?  Yes!  And, over time, I learned to teach skills through the context of everyday writing so my students could actually apply them.  But, I wasn't over-burdened by trying to GRADE their writing.  In fact, 'writing' wasn't even on the second grade report card.  Why does this matter?  When I work with teachers who are trying to build their writing classrooms, I hear over and over how the prospect of grading colors thinking.  This is particularly true for upper-grade teachers, presumably because they've always been asked to grade writing.  Here's a challenge: FREE YOURSELF (and your students)--even just for two weeks!  Focus on celebrating what students are saying and thinking through their writing and perhaps giving one or two items of specific feedback.  That's it.  Don't grade the writing--put down the red pen.  Look students in the eyes, listen, converse.  Reflect about how this affects them.  Reflect about how this affects you.  What might this mean for your teaching? 

   Does this mean you have to conference with every student about every piece of writing they work on?  No!  Do you listen to your students read everything they read?  Of course not--so don't burden yourself thinking you must do this with their writing.  Sprinkle in as much sharing and response as you can--whole-class, small group and partner-sharing, too.
   A two-week experiment like this may broaden your perspective about how to support and build writers.  Grading does have its place, but it serves no one if it holds teachers and students back. 

1 comment

  1. I agree so much, I have used this technique for a year and I grade some writing but I mainly built confidence and joy. You know you are doing something right when your students come and ask for writing assignments.
    Give it a try and see the results.


Back to Top