Have you ever been frustrated between grading pieces of writing that were good (had all the “bones,” all the structures, all the requirements), and grading really great, well-written, interesting pieces of writing? Both had all the meat, but only one had real substance. As an English Language Arts teacher, the question has been raised in my mind numerous times,

How do you teach students to have more than what is required when it comes to writing? Click To Tweet? How do you teach them to write really great, talented pieces of writing?” I had to think about my own teaching-writing strategies to answer those questions. Once students have learned the basics (the “bones,” the structure, the rules and regulations of writing), perhaps you can enjoy facilitating these tips that I think would assist you as an educator (in any subject area) to help students reach higher, more talented levels of writing.

 “Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoids errors. Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.” ~Samuel R. Delany

Unseasoned writers are much like soup without salt or spices...their work lacks flavor. Click To Tweet. A very basic #1 way to show your students how to improve their writing is to ask them to replace lower language usage with higher language usage. Have your students go through their work and replace regular, everyday words and phrases with those that have a “higher-sounding” kick. For example: “Ulysses was strong.” could be replaced with, “Ulysses’ brute strength surpassed that of any regular human being.” When you show students this technique, they quickly realize that more often than not, they have just added many more words to their paper and made it sound better.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~Ernest Hemingway 

It takes a bold person to put their ideas on paper, a very bold person indeed. Hemingway had it right…you do metaphorically bleed on the paper…in other words, you fearlessly “put yourself out there” for all to see. We as adults might be willing to “bleed” on a paper for all the world to see, however, students more often, are not. Their confidence in expressing themselves in writing is often lacking and most oftentimes the reason is due to trust. It is not an easy job to build a trust relationship with your students, but you will have to if you want your students to be bold writers. Building confidence in your students can take many forms. For example, many educators prefer the method of “peer editing,” I however, do not adhered to that philosophy. I’ve seen the looks on the faces of my students in my earlier years of teaching when I have made the statement, “Ok students, now exchange papers with your partner for peer editing.” Fear, dread and terror are what I would describe as seeing. Writing is very personal, and if a student feels that their work will be judged by someone that might not have their best interest at heart, boldness in writing may never occur. I feel it is best to refrain from the peer editing technique. Many educators would disagree with me on this, and state that there are ways around this problem. I however, maintain that retaining and gaining the confidence of your student is one very real way that you can create a prolific writer. Let your students know that writing in your class, is safe. Help them to know that they can trust you with their bold work; that it will be your eyes that see it and help them improve it, not their peers.

 “You’ve made the mistake of thinking that everything that has happened to you is interesting.” ~ Editor’s Rejection Letter to Anne Lamott

I’m always amazed at people that can “whip out” a piece of writing in a matter of mere minutes while I painstakingly take hours to write even a short piece, but if you listen to the experts, slowing down and making those chisels can be the difference between a good piece of writing and a great piece of writing.  After all, not everything that comes out in their paper will be interesting or even good at first, but it’s a start; it can be worked on and worked with. There is no shame in being a chiseler! When helping your students towards the monumental task of writing and writing well, help them know that excellent writing takes time, and revision is inevitable. Click To Tweet

“A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight…it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, “‘Simba!'”  ~Annie Dillard

With recent developments in state standards, we’ve all come to conclude that when it comes to teaching writing, we are all in this together. Every educator in every subject can help create some of the world’s great future writers. We can do nothing well, if we do not teach our students to write well. I hope that these tips have helped you as an educator to illuminate the writers of the world; to tap into the language and expression of the great inner-writer that we know lies somewhere deep inside all of our students.

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