Week 5: Chapters 2 and 8 in Creating Writers

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Write on!

The Writing Process

Teachers should write so they understand the process of writing from within. They should know the territory intellectually and emotionally; how you have to think to write, how you feel when writing. Teachers of writing do not have to be great writers, but they should have frequent and recent experience in writing. -Donald Murray

Murray’s quote in Chapter 2 really resonated within me. I thought about my language arts teachers throughout my educational career: none of them modelled their own writing or shared their writing with the class. Why? as teachers, we need to model to our students, and work collaboratively to encourage and build on writing skills.  By modelling our own writing, we can show students what structured, organized writing looks like; from the pre-writing stage to the final revision and published piece.

If we teach writing as a dynamic and interactive procedure where traits are interconnected to process, students can gain meaning and will better comprehend what the writing process entails.

I will be incorporating a Writer’s Workshop into my future classroom. I agree with Spandel that these workshops foster independence, create a busy atmosphere (tasking), honour writing, and celebrate the writing process. I think that writer’s workshops can turn even the most resistant writer into someone who enjoys writing.  I also think that the most successful writer’s workshops have routine and structure built into them. There should be some noise as students give each other feedback, but the workshop should be a productive time.

Personally, I would love to have a open mic night at the end of the year, where all the students share their best (or favourite) piece of work from their writer’s workshops. Below is a great organizer I found online that would be an excellent tool for introducing students to the workshop into a classroom.


Conventions and Presentation

I was very hesitant to read this chapter-I had a flashback to elementary school, and the dreaded red pen circles! However, this chapter has been the most helpful to me so far.

I really like how the author has included presentation as an important trait in writing. Visual appeal creates impact and can create motivation for your audience to read your piece of writing.  Personally, I look for pieces of writing that are visually engaging: the font types work well together, there may be highlighted or bolded words to show importance, or illustrations to define or create more imagery for the reader.  Most importantly, the format is appealing to the eye and flows with the writing. The presentation enhances the writing, and should be taught to young writers using examples like the one in Chapter 8, page 225.

Spandel also points out that conventions do not necessarily have to abide by conventional rules of grammar: she gives examples of books with intriguing conventions such as the BFG by Roald Dahl, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. these books do not follow normal convention rules, and are a great way to introduce a different, more creative way of writing to students.

So how can educators be successful in teaching conventions? (borrowed from Spandel)

1. We need to show students why we have conventions! (see figure 8.10 on page 246 for a great poem to show students)

2. We need to teach copyeditor’s symbols (or whatever you use to edit) to our students so the editing process is efficient and understood

3. Editing practice should be short and focused-simplicity is the key; if you are helping students it is too hard.

4. Do not correct everything- It discourages the writer. Instead, highlight a few errors and focus on the ideas, imagery, and voice that the writer chose. Praise them. Afterwards, show the student their errors and have them use a dictionary for misspellings.

5. Let students guide curriculum: Focus on your class. If your students are amazing spellers, focus on proper usage of commas and semicolons.  Let their faulty conventions guide your teaching.

6. Encourage students to edit with their ears: Read aloud to catch errors in writing!

7. Do not overuse worksheets (Spandel uses none): Instead, make connections through literature. Use student examples of writing for editing, and model your own writing.

8. Celebrate students’ successes! Did your student spell onomatopoeia correctly? That deserves a positive comment! Remember to give meaningful praise and mark what they did right.

By using these guidelines, students can get the most out of conventions, and will be more effective writers.


A note on presentation: Spandel touches briefly on using technology to create a strong presentation. Technology is an amazing tool to create an interactive presentation format. Prezi, PowerPoint, and Publisher can add varying degrees of interactivity and impact to student writing. My favourite tool for writing is Storybird. This resource allows writers to create a story or poem and add in imagery or even their own personal pictures. Furthermore, students can create a book which parents can buy (or, the class can co-create a book for purchase!)




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