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Literacy first – do you write with your students?

The National Writing Project Puts Literacy first – Do You Write With Your Students?

A teacher is a critically important role model for students. It’s said that a parent is a child’s first, best teacher but parents entrust to us the sacred obligation to carry the flame of learning through the school years.

Teachers sometimes “dispense” information but one of the most important ways learning happens and takes hold is when the role model – teacher or parent – demonstrates the importance of the lesson or task by engaging in it themselves. Tying a shoe, keeping things in their place, reading – or writing.

Donald Graves used to talk about this in his teacher workshops. Showing rather than just telling your students that writing, revising and editing can be hard work – but worth it – is a powerful teaching tool. Getting down in the trenches with your students can be uncomfortable, but showing vulnerability to the kids can pay dividends.

When your students see that “even the teacher” can struggle with making written thoughts as clear and meaningful as possible to readers, it gives them the motivation to try – temporarily fail – and try again.

Rebecca Alber of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education gives a couple of examples of real-life writing challenges she shared with some eleventh graders. In one of them, she received an electronic traffic ticket in error and her students helped her frame a response that was more factual and less angry than her first draft. See also this post on how to become a literacy volunteer.

Help is available for teachers that want to become better writers – and writing teachers. The National Writing Project is a wonderful organization. There are also many state and local chapters that host workshops and conferences for members. These gatherings are beneficial not only for the expertise of the presenters but also the collegiality that occurs.

You are not alone. You have colleagues that are waiting to meet and support you. Take the first step – visit and follow the national professional organizations and state professional associations and check out their websites.