Reading Inside Out, even two chapters of it, has been a really big eye opener to me and so has my visit to Upper Dublin. When I was teaching English in the charter school, I would have to cover everything, and writing was the one thing I really thought I knew something about. I mean, I thought I had it down, and that I was a great teacher. I’m not saying I wasn’t a great teacher at all, but what I will say is that I knew nothing until reading the book and spending time with Mrs. Kaplan.
I followed a structure in my teaching of writing that I made my students follow. I did word webs, and I did free writing, but I always made my students fix something. I thought that was the only way they were going to learn, even with free writing. I never thought to just let them go, how that would be the best way to teach them.
Letting the student go to do their own thing is a common theme I’ve seen throughout the chapters. The priority is to get and keep a student writing and by allowing them to write without any constraints seems to be the best way to do this. I observed this with Mrs. Kaplans 11th grade track 2 students, as I stated in my previous blog. When I was observing, they were free writing on the books they read over the summer, and Mrs. Kaplan made it a point to let them know that they shouldn’t worry about sentence structure, punctuation, spelling or grammar. She just wanted them to write.
I think that’s one of the best things a teacher can do for his or her students. Even if the student doesn’t know what to say, we shouldn’t pester him or her to start writing. We need to let the student feel comfortable with his or her thoughts in order for them to get on the paper, no matter how long it takes. This shows the student that we, as teachers, trust them and have faith in them.
In part of chapter two I read that we should share our writing with our students. This is something that I have done before, and I hope to do again, and hopefully I’ll see it this year or be able to do it this year. When I showed my students a piece of my writing from when I was in 11th grade, I don’t think I’ve seem them laugh so hard and I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard. I really liked doing this because I wanted them to see that I don’t take myself too seriously, and again, there is a certain sense of trust involved. What I really liked about this lesson was that I didn’t tell them it was my writing until the end of class. I had them read it, talk about what needed to be fixed and then they fixed it. I think that’s great practice for students, and it does keep teachers humble as well.
Making our students feel comfortable should be our number one goal when it comes to teaching writing. Allow them to free write and reinforce that mistakes don’t matter.