5 Keys to Teaching Writing

Helping elementary students sharpen their writing skills without hindering their creativity is hard work. It’s not like teaching math or phonics; but it’s not rocket science either. There is a well-established body of best practices in writing instruction that works beautifully for children. What you need is:

1. A common set of practices and vocabulary about writing. Good writing really comes from developing a whole tool kit of abilities, including organizational and analytic skills. First graders who learn to analyze anonymous student writing by finding “glows” and “grows” (strengths and weaknesses) need second grade teachers who will use the same techniques and language to build their capacities. Consistency across the grades rewards both students and teachers.

2. Common assessment methods students can count on across the grades. Assessing writing isn’t simple; a common assessment tool empowers both students and teachers to think clearly about the elements that make “good writing” convincing and easy to read. WriteSteps uses the 6 Traits rubrics from 1st through 5th grade.

3. Principals who hold teachers accountable. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It’s as simple as asking each teacher to share three student writing samples per month: one each from a low, medium, and high-performing student. Principals might also pop in a classroom to browse students’ writing notebooks on a monthly basis, just to see how often they’re writing. These simple acts convey a clear message to teachers and students: writing matters.

4. Time.  K-5 teachers need permission to spend 50 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week, modeling, inspiring, coaching, cheerleading, and celebrating students’ written work.

5. Professional development that is practical and solution-oriented. Overstretched teachers need PD that translates into immediate student learning, not lofty ideals and resources that require hours of additional study to create usable lessons. PD funds can be used to purchase a comprehensive program like WriteSteps, because we offer PD in the form of grade-level coaching that really works!

Do you have any advice to share that has helped with your writing instruction? We’d love to know what has worked for you! Tell us in the comments below.