There Is No Magic Bullet for Writing

Real writing is always on my mind. I feel myself cringe when another "program" is mentioned to solve all the writing woes of our state. I recently emailed Victoria Young (recently retired Director of Reading, Writing, and Social Studies Assessments for TEA) about a particular program and her thoughts about how it helps student writers. I received a response from her on her very last day in the office. I respect what she had to say.

"Districts need to spend their PD money in the wisest possible way (understanding, of course, that there's no magic bullet.)"

Even the person who has led the way in writing assessment for the state of Texas, admits there is no magic bullet.

There is no one program out there that can magically make our students better writers. There are, however, best practices that are researched and proven to create confident writers who actually like writing. These are some that I have seen and experienced first hand.

  1. Write with your students. Teachers who write are BETTER writing teachers. Make it personal. Students love getting to know you through your writing and struggles.
  2. Write A LOT! Students need a lot of practice putting words on a page. Just like, "The more you read, the better reader you become." The more you write, the better writer you become.
  3. Use great mentor texts. Mentor texts provide options for students. Look at the best examples and try it your own way. Sometimes the mentor text is your writing or another student's writing. I use my writing often to model revision and how I've used a mentor to help my writing. Also, visit author web pages and read author's notes in their books. Authors are often happy to share their thoughts about the process of writing and where they find their ideas.
  4. Confer with your students. (NOT correct with your students.) Conferring is having a conversation with your students and understanding them as writers; then helping them go one step further.
  5. Play with genres. Not all pieces of writing are narrative or expository. There are so many possibilities for genres and structures in writing.
  6. Have fun! Writing is something that can benefit everyone--teachers included. Yes, students need college and career readiness but they also need to have a voice and know their ideas matter.

There is no magic bullet. We can buy manuals that help students write a certain genre in 26 lines following a "structure." We can provide a given prewriting organizer or go from a script. OR we can teach our students that writing is a gift. It is a way to communicate our ideas, creativity, and imagination.

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