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#2: Three Mistakes Teachers Make When Teaching Writing

April 8, 2019 4 min read

#2: Three Mistakes Teachers Make When Teaching Writing

April 8, 2019 4 min read

Today’s episode is all about three mistakes teachers might make when teaching writing – and exactly what to do about it.

Mistake #1: Not providing your students with a specific framework to follow.

This can be applicable to nearly every kind of writing – narrative, informational, argumentative, literary analysis, the like.

For the sake of keeping things as simple as possible, we’re just going to focus on talking about this mistake through the lens of literary analysis writing.

Now, when we’re teaching our students how to write a literary analysis paper, we can’t simply say, “Write a five paragraph essay! Here’s the question!” As I’m sure you’re well aware, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, we have to explicitly teach our students what they need to include in their literary analysis essay.

About 6 years ago, after not teaching literary analysis very well for those first years in the classroom, Jessica and I worked together to create a specific framework for our students. It literally is a step-by-step framework that makes sense, is clearly laid out for students, but also allows them to inject their critical analysis in an easy way. The moment I began to teach this framework to my students, everything changed. And I mean everything. Students started to “get it.” Not only that, but teachers in other classrooms started to come in and observe how we taught writing – they were blown away with how effective the framework was for students.

Mistake #2: Not including a writing sample for students to model.

Now, I know, I know, this one includes a little bit more work upfront from us as teachers, but providing students with a sample can have a HUGE impact on your students’ writing.

You might be asking “why on earth would I give my students a completed essay before they write their own?” Well there are a few reasons for this.

The first reason is that by writing your own essay first in response to the essay question you’re providing students, it is very likely that you will find gaps in the question. The question might not really make sense, it might not be easily answerable, and there might not even be any evidence from the text to support the argument that you’re asking students to make! How can we assign an essay to our students if we can’t answer it ourselves?

Additionally, providing students with a sample essay helps you set the expectations for students when they begin to write their own essays. When I do this, I spend a ton of time with my kids going over the various strengths of the sample teacher response I created – highlighting strong vocabulary or effective transitions, even discussing why a piece of evidence that was included is a strong piece of evidence to support the argument.

As my students become more proficient with literary analysis, I step back with my sample response. While they may get a full essay at the beginning of the year, once they master the introductory paragraph, I only give them a body paragraph as a model. Just something to keep in mind!

Mistake #3: Not supplying students with a rubric.

Yes, you likely use a rubric when you sit down to grade your essays, but do your students see it first? And are you really using it in the most effective way possible?

I’ve come to find just how beneficial it is to go over the rubric in depth with students before they begin writing their essays. And I do this EVERY TIME. Even if they’ve seen the rubric 20 times before, we analyze it closely before each and every essay the kids write.

This is important for the following reasons:

  1. One, you want to make sure your students understand the language in the rubric itself.
  2. Two, your students are able to ask for any clarification they might need.
  3. Three, the rubric should be their companion as they are writing their essays – this way, they are able to ensure they are meeting the expectations you’ve set forth.

The power of it doesn’t end when you pass it back filled with comments …. when you pass back your student essays and the rubric with their grade, you could also pass back a reflection handout and allow students time to reflect on their own writing based on your feedback on the rubric. This practice allows students to really, truly reflect on areas of strength or improvement or whatever else they might see that they need to work on.

There you have it! The 3 mistakes you might be making when teaching writing and what you can do to ensure you don’t make those mistakes any more!

We really want you to feel comfortable with the ideas we’ve addressed in this episode, so we put together three awesome resources for you – including the complete framework, the rubric we use to grade essays, and a student reflection.

For more ELA strategies and inspiration, follow us on Instagram @ebacademics.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Hi there! We're two middle school ELA teachers with a mission to share ideas, tips, and tricks for effectively teaching reading and writing in the secondary classroom. We're so happy you stopped by!

Caitlin + Jessica

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