Wednesday, September 13, 2006

“What I’ve Learned from Teachers of Writing” by Graves

“What I’ve Learned from Teachers of Writing” by Graves

Donald Graves’ recent article for Language Arts (November 2004) outlines the fundamentals of

teaching writing in a workshop: students choose their own topics, writers receive regular responses from an

audience, i.e. teachers and fellow students, students write a minimum of three days a week, students

attempt to publish their work in some manner, teachers share expertise through modeling and think-aloud,

and students create a collection of their work (p. 91).

The article outlines people who impacted this thinking.

Calkins: He explains some important history. He thanks Lucy Calkins for “developing the concept of mini-lessons” (89). Mini-lessons took the strain off teachers who only talked about writing with one to one conferences.

Atwell: “raised our expectations of what middle school students can do”—he also said that Calkins and Atwell shared their own literacy, and that’s something I wrote about when I thought of Atwell. She really does spend a lot of valuable time in her book describing her own literacy and sharing that with students, and I think that’s what made her book different.

Frank Smith: “every act of writing is a convention”—from Graves’ description it makes me think that Wilhelm took generously of Smith’s ideas. Graves said that his ideas helped teachers to track students progression through the learning of these conventions. For example, as students get older, they will understand more and more conventions.

As he talks about these other writers, he also looks back on his own research and thinking processes.

Tom Romano and Camille Allen: books on multigenre

He said people tried to regulate the writing process by making it five-step or seven-step, and because of that he abandoned the term “writing process” in terms of just “writing.”

He said another issue came up that students “must” revise. He said that students need to practice re-reading their work critically.

Linda Rief: study in the 80s with her class, where she had them evaluate their own work and the work of others. With practice, students did better with evaluating work, and their evaluations matched closely how teachers evaluated the same work.

He shares three statements to shorten writing conferences: 1) this is what my piece is about; 2) this is where I am in the draft; 3) this is what will happen next, I’m writing next, or I need help with.

These sentences did help to focus writing conferences when I have little time.

First-rate teachers have the following characteristics:

  1. highly literate
  2. intensely interested in students
  3. students have a primary place in the classroom
  4. they instill a sense of responsibility
  5. they have high expectations
  6. they teach by showing

He ends by talking about teaching and learning as a craft—something that can be honed and worked on throughout a lifetime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was fascinating. My practice will be richer as a result of reading this posting.