In this blog post, The Writing Hedge’s Brad Kelly looks at teaching writing effectively – and he thinks you need to adopt these 5 qualities to get a better result for your efforts.
Since Malcolm Gladwell’s celebrated article in The New Yorker nearly 15 years ago that compared quarterbacks with teachers, the research is in. Quality teaching has the most significant impact on student achievement.
And it’s by no small measure. The effect of having a good teacher can result in one and a half year’s progress for one year’s input. Students who are lumped with a bad teacher get six months. Building effective teachers has been high up in the work of academics like Dylan Wiliam, John Hattie and others for well over a two decades.
Teaching writing more effectively has the same qualities as good teaching. It requires a deep understanding of subject content and pedagogy (or to put a fancier spin on it, pedagogic content knowledge).
But here’s the rub with all teachers – I said all teachers. Every teacher is a writing teacher. And teaching writing is difficult. So here’s are 5 things you should know:
1. Effective teachers experience writing
There is a big difference between what teachers and students do in the writing classroom and when it comes to developing writing skills and teaching writing more effectively, it is important to understand this.
And I believe that the only way to understand this, is for the teacher to sit down and write an activity that they have set for their students. They will see that writing is a complex cognitive exercise involving so many moving parts that are all happening at the same time.
An effective writing teacher will experience the act of writing.
2. Effective teachers know that writing is thinking
Effective writing teachers know that, in the words of John Warner, the basic idea of writing is not the sentence – it is the idea. This might seem counterintuitive, but teachers are so busy with the day to day demands of the job that often the first thing to go is practising thinking.
Anyone who sits down to write knows that it is ideas first – but the expression is happening at the same time. Most writers are not mentally checking into the grammar grand hotel when they are writing – they are simply trying to push their ideas out on the page in the quickest, most effortless way possible.
3. Effective teachers know that improvement takes time
One of the problems with online teaching English writing courses is the promises they make and fail to keep. There are no short cuts when it comes to teaching writing. It is the commitment to learn new writing skills, better ways of teaching writing and acknowledging the sheer amount of time it takes.
The often bandied around figure for mastery is ten thousand hours, and that is probably not too far off the mark when it comes to teaching writing – which surely must rate as one of the most complex of skills.
4. Effective teachers embed writing in their own subjects
At The Writing Hedge, we are sure of one thing. We don’t want to mug teachers with traditional grammar and structure. We think there is enough writing improvement material in your faculties to guide you.
We know the types of texts your students need to produce, the vocabulary and concepts that need to guide their understandings, and the kinds of thinking that guides mastery in your subject. Our core mantra that writing is thinking drives us back into the syllabus.
5. Effective teachers understand the writing is complex and holistic
Writing is complex and holistic skill simply because there are so many things happening at the same time.
It’s like riding a bike. Anyone who has tried to yell out instructions about how to ride a bike will find the rider feeling very confused and coming off quickly. But unless we experience the act of writing, we are not going to understand its holistic nature – and we will continue pulling out thin strands of the writing process to teach, without understanding that there is so much more going on.
At The Writing Hedge, we produce courses about teaching writing effectively with the teacher in mind. We highly recommend that you visit this link and see if any of them appeal to you.