Teaching writing for the first time

I love writing but have never been super confident in my skills. I think University kind of took my passion for writing out of me when I was getting terrible grades on my papers. When I was a kid, I loved to write fictional stories that contained imaginary creatures and out of this world situations. I am hoping to start writing stories again and I’m hoping that this blog will help me practice the daily art of writing to get my creative juices flowing.

When I was a first year teacher, I had to teach writing and I was nervous. I didn’t know where to begin or what I should teach or what resources I should use. My first class was a grade 4/5 class, so I assumed that they pretty much knew all the rules around basic writing skills. My first lesson as a teacher… never assume. So the students weren’t as advanced as I had expected and a lot of them detested writing, which was definitely not a good beginning.  Instead of trying to do all of these fun and random writing activities to get them writing, I decided to follow a writing program recommended to me by my mentor teacher, and I have to say, even though it was painful to actually put into practice (some of the kids really hated it), in the end, most of them improved dramatically as writers and some of them came up with stories I was absolutely blown away by. In fact, one parent came up to me at the end of the school year and said she had read her daughter’s story and told me she had no idea how talented of a writer her daughter was, and I agreed wholeheartedly. I watched this young lady bloom into a fabulous writer and saw her passion and love grow for the art, which was so inspiring.

I was asked recently if I would implement the unit again, and I definitely would. It was a learning experience for me too and I think my writing also improved because of it.

The writing unit I am talking about is Lucy Calkin’s Unit of Study – Writing. It’s a lot of reading on the teacher’s part to get the lessons prepared and delivered properly, but definitely worth it. I used her unit in conjunction with some other writing exercises, but for the most part, I stuck to her plan.

I made sure that all the students had a writing folder and a writing notebook. And for the first lesson, we did an exercise about heart mapping and brainstorming topics for our heart map. You can find an example of the lesson plan here. The students were given a heart template and asked to fill it in with things from their life. And when they are in a rut as to what they can write about, they were to look at this heart map and glean topics from there. I  took the heart map from the lesson plan referenced above and modified it for my students to provide more guidance which you can access here: Heart map template

Thanks for reading and happy writing!

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