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Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Struggle to Write

"Students can go a lifetime and never see another person write, much less show them how to write.  Yet it would be unheard of for an artist not to show her students how to use oils by painting on her own canvas, or for a ceramist not to demonstrate how to throw clay on a wheel and shape the materials himself.  Writing is a craft.  It needs to be demonstrated to your students in your classroom, which is a studio, from choosing a topic to finishing a final draft.  They need to see you struggle to match your intentions with the words that reach the page" (64).

Above is another great metaphor from Donald Graves.  Writing in front of the students is also something Kelly Gallagher promotes. 

I am always striving to "teach writing," not just "assign writing."  I confess that in the past I haven't done much writing in front of students.  I am not worried about struggling on the topic in front of them; I am nervous about it for a few other reasons.

Classroom management-wise, what are they doing while I'm struggling in front of them?  Sitting quietly watching me?  I'm not sure if they can sustain their attention that long.  Maybe I should do it at the very beginning of class, when their attention is the best it can be?  I am going to make a plan to demonstrate writing at least once this quarter.  I have a projector, so it's a perfect set up, technology-wise.

If you have any suggestions for how you've done this, please feel free to email me at!


  1. Hi Abbey! Nothing amazing here, but just some ways I've attempted this:
    - writing while they write and sharing my own (which is not necessarily any better on any given day!)
    - Last year I did this a few times -- At home I wrote a first draft to fulfill an assignment the class would be doing, and I had students (in groups) score it on the rubric I'd be using for theirs; they marked up and scored my paper and, depending on the class, I either had each group share out its observations or just went around to each group individually to gather input. Then I revised based on their comments and shared it out again. They had GREAT conversations about writing and loved scoring MY work. Two bonuses: they actually had PROCESSED the rubric by the end of scoring my work AND -- for one essay -- many followed my model of using an extended metaphor to develop an argument. Some of the work they produced for that piece gave me goosebumps. (Freshman Honors)

  2. Thanks! Great ideas here for me to try!