Easy Method for Teaching for Transfer in Writing

Teachers are so often nervous about teaching writing.  I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe we never saw ourselves as good at it.  Maybe we don’t remember how we learned it and it’s mysterious.  Maybe the way we learned it leaves a sour taste in our memory.  Or maybe it’s because teaching writing, and all that goes into it, just seems too daunting.   Or, most defeating of all, maybe it’s because for all the time we spend teaching for transfer, it seems that our kids just don’t do it. Ever.

The writing process is HUGE. 

We have to think about stamina, volume, and independence.  We have to think about structure, organization, precise words, and voice.  Not to mention how to write coherently and with proper conventions.  And if you have never felt comfortable with any of this yourself, you can probably feel your blood pressure rising at the mere idea of teaching writing.  If you’re talking about teaching writing well, that raises the stakes.  And your anxiety.

So what do we do?  Often, we look to social media, where there is no end to fun ideas, clever songs, and pages of fill-ins to print.  There are myriad tips and tricks and vibrant, beautiful anchor charts to see.  These things seem to hit our standards, so we buy or recreate these ideas for ourselves.  

And more often than not, we want to bang our head against the wall because for all of the effort we put into looking for and  providing these resources to students, their writing just isn’t getting better.  We cringe when we are faced with piece after piece that kids are not applying what we’ve taught.   our teaching did not transfer. We bemoan the idea of having to grade a classful of papers.   We are confirmed:  this is why teaching writing sucks.

Wanna know what could have saved you a ton of time and a lot of headache?  

Wanna know what’s missing?  Why what you’ve tried isn’t landing?  

What’s missing is…YOU!

In order to teach writing well, we have to provide a model.  That’s pretty much it.  And you, dear teacher,  are the very best model for your students.  When you walk your class through the writing process, from idea generation to organization to elaboration to revision, you are literally pulling back the curtain for all to see.  You are showing them HOW.  And shared writing is the perfect teaching tool to do just that.

Before we move on, a quick reminder. During shared writing, you hold the pen, but you and your students negotiate the text together.  For a piece like I’m describing here, some of the text will already be written ahead of time, some will be done together with the class, depending on your purpose.

An example of teaching for transfer using shared writing:

To start, I’m assuming you have some sort of guiding framework to work from, like a rubric or a checklist that will be used to grade your students’ work.  If you don’t, start there.  You have to have the big picture in mind, and have a good idea of what you want your students’ finished writing to include.  You might even look for an exemplar piece–this could be from the class next door, a sample from your writing curriculum, or even a really strong piece from a student in your own class.  

Next, plan your lessons so that they stair-step kids through the process.  You might show them how to generate ideas and pick one, for example.  Or how to think of a topic they want to teach people about and then how to plan for subtopics.  The next day, you might show them how you plan…maybe you use a graphic organizer like a web or a table of contents.  Maybe you rehearse it aloud, maybe you draw quick sketches.  After that, you might show them a draft you’ve prewritten, and model how to add elaboration.

Another time, you might borrow an idea from an author your class has come to know well and show your kids how you might echo that author’s idea for using precise words to create a mental image for the reader.  Still another day, you might take another section you’ve pre-drafted, and show your students how to reread it, looking for any missed punctuation.  You might then return to that favorite book, or another, and study how that author introduced the characters or the topic, and use it as a springboard for your own introduction.   

If you also have writing partners established, you can even further amplify this shared writing teaching.  

This is how you model the process, lift the level of their thinking, and most importantly, provide them a clear example.  This is teaching for transfer.

The entire writing process, from  beginning to end, can be modeled, and all it takes is you–uncovering your thinking as you add to a piece of writing you’ve created for your class.    

You’ve shown them the way, each step of way, so they have something to strive for.  You’ve given them a crystal-clear example, with explicit instruction, to show them the way.  You’ve shown them the path.  That’s the power of shared writing.  No printables, no downloads, no videos needed. Just you, something to write on, and something to write with. 

It couldn’t be easier!

Want some help planning shared writing lessons as a model for an upcoming writing unit?  Contact me to set up a coaching call, so we can think it through together!   And,  join my private FB group for immediate support from like-minded educators.

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Related posts:  Why You Need to do Shared and Interactive Writing, How to get the Most from Shared and Interactive Writing Lessons,  Getting to Know Your Readers and Writers to Save Time Later, Setting Up Student Partnerships with Purpose, Lesson Planning Tips That Help You Do More, Better [In Less Time]

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