Are you using a resource to help you teach writing? Are you feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to use it in a way that promotes joyful and rigorous instruction? Using resources can be powerful ONLY if you realize that there is another resource that is even more important– Your students! The best teaching comes from merging the curriculum (or the resource you’re using) with being responsive to your students. Here are a few tips on how you might do this.
- Begin With Inquiry. Harvey Daniels, in his wonderful new book, The Curious Classroom defines inquiry as “building instruction out of children’s curiosity rather than from a curriculum guide.” I believe all units are ultimately more successful when you start with building curriculum from children’s curiosity. You can do this by inviting students to study the kinds of texts they are going to write. As kids do this, you can build curriculum off what they are curious about, as well as what confuses them. If you are interested in the nuts and bolts of immersion you might want to read an earlier blog post I wrote about this topic.
- Determine Goals. John Hattie, in Visible Learning said, “Learning starts with backward design–rather than starting from a textbook or favoured lessons and time-honoured activities. Learning starts with the teacher (and preferably also the student) knowing the desired results.” Because your resources were not designed with your exact students in mind, I always recommend starting by looking at your students’ writing samples and making goals based upon your assessments. Once you have those goals, it is easier to look at your curriculum and figure out which parts you will spend more time on and which parts you will expose kids to.
- Read With a Focus: No matter what resource you are using, don’t forget that ultimately what you are trying to do is improve the quality of your students’ writing. While reading the lessons in your curriculum, you’ll want to ask yourself: Is this lesson teaching topic choice, focus, structure, elaboration, word choice or conventions. Or is it teaching something else? Knowing the answer to that will make the lesson more comprehensible for you, which in turn will make it more comprehensible for your students.
I would love to hear in the comments below what you are doing to make the resources work for you. As always, shoot me an email if you want to have a longer conversation.