Sunday, October 7, 2012

Teach the Writer, Not the Writing

In many of the classroom visits, I have had questions about conferring with students. Since one of the CCSS has to do with strengthening student writing, this is an important aspect of instruction since one of the Common Core anchor standards states that students will “develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.”

An important point that I hear TC people say over and over and I think is incredibly important is “teach the writer, not the writing.”  I wrote this chart and I think that you will get the idea quickly.

Instead of …
What did you say, what did you hear?
Writers add details to help their readers share their experience. Is there a part where you could try this strategy out?
Have you described the setting? Where were you?
Writers let their readers know where their story is taking place. As a writer, how can you do that in your piece?
How did you feel during that time?
Writers include feelings in their writing. I’m wondering if there is a place where you can include some of the feelings that you had.
Right here is a good place for an anecdote.
We just had a mini-lesson on weaving stories into your writing. Is there a place where you could use this skill?

The difference is subtle but I think that the right side empowers students in important ways. First, it holds students accountable for the lessons that teachers are giving in their classrooms. At a recent Teachers College Reading and Writing Project workshop, Natalie Louis shared the line, “Where in your writing can I see the evidence of my teaching?” What a great line for making students aware that the teaching points are for them to use!  Additionally, the right side of the chart lets students know that these strategies should show up in future pieces, and not just in the current one because the teacher is suggesting it.

Independence and repertoire have been buzzwords from out TC staff developers. Talking to students about what writers do during conferences is a way to build repertoire. I’d love to hear other ways that you are building independence and repertoire in your writing classrooms.


  1. "Where in your writing can I see evidence of my teaching." What a great line for teachers to use in all subject areas! where in your work ( math, science, word study, SS) can I see evidence of my teaching? Reader's workshop: I should hear evidence of my teaching in your conversations. Our teaching should show up throughout the school year, not just during that particular unit of study.

  2. I love this chart! I find myself stumbling with language since I haven't run Writing Workshop for 4 years. Thanks for this--such important thinking.