15 Short- and Long-Term Goals for Writing Teachers

What would you do if you hoped to help your children learn to speak Spanish? I don’t mean to pick up a few words or phrases—I mean to become fluent enough to use Spanish in life. Would you sign them up for an occasional Spanish class? That’s not enough; they’d need a lot more than that. Ideally, you’d arrange for them to spend a summer in Costa Rica, Mexico, or Spain, where they could hang out with other kids their own age. Okay, that might not be feasible, but at the very least you’d make sure that they spend lots of time in an environment where they could interact with Spanish speakers. That would give them the opportunity to use Spanish for real purposes every day.

Writing is no different. Your students need to write every day. Writing should be one of the foundational beams of your classroom. Not a decorative beam, but a weight-bearing wall.

In the beginning of the school year, writing teachers should focus on these five short-term goals:

1.     Make sure your writers are engaged.

2.     Make sure they love writing time.

3.     Create a safe environment where kids can take risks.

4.     Establish predictable routines and a workable management system.

5.     Find out who your students are as writers.

And throughout the school year a writing teacher should focus on these 10 long-term goals:

6.     Help students improve the quality of their writing.

7.     Build students’ concept of strong writing.

8.     Model yourself as a writer-with-a-small-w.

9.     Make sure students explore their passions through their writing.

10.   Provide opportunities for them to share and celebrate their writing in both big and small ways.

11.   Help them become problem-solvers: recognizing what’s working in their writing, what’s not working, and having options to solve their problems.

12.   Help them make deeper connections between what they read and what they write.

13.   Build their knowledge about various genres—not only the distinctions between genres but also the commonalities.

14.   Deepen their understanding of what writers do (process) when they write.

15.   Help them become more skilled a rereading their rough drafts.

With these goals in mind, it’s not so much that you will teach your kids to write. They will teach themselves by writing every day, and just like learning a new language, by living in a community of writers.

Find more ways to teach your students to write with the The Writing Teacher’s Companion: Embracing Choice, Voice, Purpose & Play. You can purchase the book here.

About the author:

Ralph Fletcher is a former member of the Teachers College Writing Project and current author and consultant. He is the author or coauthor with his wife, JoAnn Portalupi, of numerous professional books and videos. Mr. Fletcher speaks at national conferences around the U.S. and abroad. He also conducts his own one-day seminars and does occasional author visits to schools. 

How Students Can Become Better Writers by Asking Themselves 11 Questions

By Ralph Fletcher

Whenever you write, there’s always the danger of self-indulgence. Every once in a while, it’s important to stand back, get some distance, and appraise what you have written. This flipping of roles—switching from writer to reader—is a crucial aspect of writing.

Rereading is a critical part of the process, but many young writers skip it. They are more happy to hand a story to the teacher and ask: “Is this good? Will you check this?” Don’t fall for this. We don’t want to corner the market on what makes a good piece of writing. They need practice developing their own criteria and asking themselves what I call writer’s questions.

Here are 11 questions every teacher should encourage their students to ask during the writing process:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. Have I said it?
  3. How does it sound?
  4. Is it working?
  5. Does my beginning grab the reader?
  6. Is there a smooth flow from the beginning to the body of the piece?
  7. Do I wander off the topic? Where?
  8. Do my characters (and dialogue) seem believable?
  9. Should I add details or examples to support general statements?
  10. Is there a critical moment or climax that I rush through too quickly… a place where I need to use slow motion?
  11. Have I written a satisfying ending?

Emphasize how important it is to be constantly asking these writer’s questions. Model asking yourself these questions with a piece of your writing. And of course, any one of these questions could provide content for an effective mini-lesson.

To learn more about The Writing Teacher’s Companion: Embracing Choice, Voice, Purpose & Play, you can purchase the book here.