5 Secrets for Helping Middle School Writers Succeed
Even though I spent 19 years as a middle school teacher, I frequently ask myself what makes a middle school writing classroom work. I know successful teaching is a series of flexible moving parts. I know it’s one part inspiration and a bigger part organization. I know that every middle school teacher struggles to achieve more good days than bad.
In Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for Middle School, I share meaningful and practical ideas for using what I’ve learned about teaching writing in middle school. My aim is to validate what you already know and give you new ways to support students. I also point out obstacles to watch out for and ways around them, so you don’t sacrifice the integrity of your teaching or the writing lives of your students.
As teachers, our greatest challenge may not be understanding best practices, but implementing those practices in classrooms where writing skills vary, time is precious, and the demand for high test scores can smother even the most creative teaching. But take heart. Teaching writing well is not impossible. Here are 5 secrets I know work in middle school and will help your young writers succeed:
1. The teacher must model how to learn.
If we want our students to write, we have to show them we are writers ourselves, which means opening ourselves up to scrutiny.
2. Learning should be infectious.
Look for inspiration everywhere and revise you lesson plans accordingly to foster a fascination with language, not just an understanding of terms. Who knows where this might lead?
3. Students must be active.
Engaging in lively activities, working in small groups, sitting on the floor, listening to music, using the computer, and talking about works in progress keep students moving, and therefore, learning.
4. Students will work hard if we give them rigorous, relevant tasks.
Let students take a giant leap forward and come up with their own projects and use the skills they have learned over the years to accomplish it. What they write matters less than the fact that they choose to write with such passion and determination.
5. Students deserve honest, detailed feedback.
Get serious about providing feedback. Students will appreciate your suggestions for making their writing smoother, clearer, and more interesting, and, like any serious writers, won’t always agree or follow them. But your students trust you to tell them the truth because they know your feedback, as difficult as it sometimes will be to convey, will help propel their work forward.
The secrets of writing, once locked away in the writing teacher’s vault, must be revealed and explored. How else will we sort out what works from what doesn’t? But you know this already. The writing lives of your middle school students depend on our getting it right.
To learn more about Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for Middle School, you can purchase the book here.
About the author:
Ruth Culham, Ed.D., has published more than 40 best-selling professional books and resources with Scholastic and the International Literacy Association on the traits of writing and teaching writing using reading as a springboard to success. Her steadfast belief that every student is a writer is the hallmark of her work. As the author of Traits Writing: The Complete Writing Program for Grades K–8(2012), she has launched a writing revolution. Traits Writing is the culmination of 40 years of educational experience, research, practice, and passion.