Writing doesn’t come easy to most students. And, letsbehonest, most students don’t enjoy it. It’s hard enough to just get ideas down on paper and we expect them to do it flawlessly?! Go read through my journal or writer’s notebook and I can guarantee that there’s an abundance of spelling and punctuation errors hastily made as I scribble down my story.
“Students who don’t love writing will never learn to be writers.” I learned this from Lucy Calkins when I heard her speak a few years ago… and it’s SO STINKIN TRUE. We’re teaching elementary students to despise writing by criticizing what they write. I don’t know about you, but when I share my writing with someone, I want to hear praise! I want to be appreciated! I won’t grow or continue writing if it’s criticized and I don’t feel valued.
I took some time to think about this and, with Lucy’s words ringing in my ears, created a new strategy for my writers. I implemented this trick and found great success! My writer’s LOVE writing. And I really do believe this one simple trick is why.
After my students submit a published piece of writing, I hand write them a letter of praise. This quick letter tells them everything I love about their writing. I attach it to their writing and send it home with them. This copy is for their family too. (Note: this is also a great way to share more positive feedback with families!)
You may be asking, but what if their writing sucks? What if they didn’t do a single thing they were supposed to do? I know – but teaching really is all about building trust and respect. Each piece of writing is a valuable tool for you as a teacher! Each time I sit down to read a piece of writing, I have my Writing Conference Binder next to me. In my binder, I track what I see. I track what this writer is doing well (and use that in my letter!) and then take notes on what we need to work on. During our one-on-one conferences, I use this information to guide them through whatever they’re working on and make it better. Because they know I love their writing and appreciate them as writers, they’re ready to hear my criticism. When we meet, they’re also sharing with me a work in progress, something that they know isn’t “perfect” yet so I can help them make it “perfect” by focusing on skills they need, helping them grown as writers!
Obviously, some writers will have more needs than others. But we’re only human and can only do so much. Prioritize and do what you can. Your patience and gentle support will go a long way!