STOP Writing When Teaching Writing!

Did the title of this article confuse you?  It probably should have!  What do you mean I can’t WRITE when I’m teaching WRITING?  That doesn’t make any sense!  Of course teachers need to write in order to teach writing.  That’s a given.  BUT there is a time when introducing a new genre of writing where writing isn’t needed.  And in fact, it’s actually damaging.  Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean!

teaching writing

Writing is a very abstract concept for students to learn.  It’s not black and white like math and science.  Writing is a reflection of one’s self and takes a lot of practice to perfect.  In elementary grades, we focus on teaching specific writing genres such as persuasive, personal narrative, how-to, nonfiction, etc.  These genres are all unique and have very specific requirements needed in order to be considered that ‘genre’.

When we jump into teaching writing by modeling writing, we are skipping a VERY important step.  So instead of modeling your writing on the first few days of teaching a new genre, do this instead!  kids writing and talking

When you’re teaching a new writing genre – don’t start by writing.

Students first need to see, hear, feel, understand, and most importantly, experience the genre to know what makes it unique before they are asked to do any writing!

But what does this look like in teaching terms?  How do we teach this?

  • Read mentor text after mentor text!  By immersing the students into the genre’s world through mentor texts, students can see and hear that specific genre in action.  They can concretely identify their expectations through these written examples.  They have strong ideas and leads to follow.
  • Teach the characteristics of the genre!  As stated before, each genre if very unique due to the characteristics it possesses.  Teach these characteristics!  Create checklists for students to follow.  Have them identify these characteristics in the mentor texts you have shared.  They need to know and understand these characteristics before they are asked to write using them!
  • Teach the text structure!  Each genre has a special text structure it typically follows.  Some of these structures may be repeated, but teaching and discussing the structure of each genre is extremely important.  Students need to understand how each genre and story is put together.  Can they identify each of the structure pieces in the mentor text examples you’ve shown them?
  • Can they help write a piece?  Before I ever let my students loose in their own writing, I ensure that they, the class, have helped me write a mentoring piece from beginning to end.  This happens after I’ve thoroughly taught the characteristics and structure as well as showcased multiple strong mentor texts.  So using their knowledge of the genre, they help me write a mentoring piece as one last way to ensure students are going to be successful when they are independent writers.

As you can see, there’s much more to teaching writing than just writing.  Students need to have a foundational understanding of the whats, whys, wheres, and hows before they are asked to jump in.  Doing this will ensure greater success earlier on in their independent writing.

When they are ready and understand the genre – THEN you can let them write!  Make sure you’ve covered the writing process before doing all of this though! 😉

If you’re looking for a fun and unique way for teaching writing, make sure to check out my Level Up Your Writing activities!

These activities are perfect and designed to introduce and teach each genre just like outlined above!  Students work collaboratively through different levels of tasks that introduce them to each genre’s characteristics, structure, and much more!  Once the group reaches the final level, then they are ready to write!  writing activity

Each unit includes 5 challenges:

  • Rookie challenge – students work towards understanding and identifying the characteristics of the writing genre by color coding certain areas of the writing sample
  • Apprentice challenge – students work towards understanding and identifying the structure of the writing genre by piecing a story back together
  • Ace challenge – students work together to finish an unfinished writing piece.  They will begin to use their understanding of the genre and support the sample writing piece
  • Exemplar challenge – We couldn’t do a writing challenge without editing!  Students work together to edit, using a checklist, a given writing sample
  • Master challenge – Students get to collaborate and write a piece using random cards with ideas, settings, characters, etc.

Also included are rubrics, answer keys, a final multiple-choice assessment, badges for students to earn, anchor charts, early finisher activity, a certificate of completion, and more!  There’s a unit for every writing genre you could possibly need!  Make sure to click the button below to head over and check them out in my store!

Grab the Level Up Writing Challenges HERE!

I hope you found a few writing tips and tricks to help you on your journey to becoming an amazing writing teacher!  If you want to save this post for later, make sure to pin the image below!



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I’m a wife, a mommy of 3, blogger, and a full time teacher author and presenter. I love to read, shop, and spend time with my family! My hands are always busy, but my heart is so full!

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