How to Overcome the Three Mistakes Teachers Make When Teaching Writing

After 10+ years teaching writing, you can bet we've made plenty of mistakes! We wanted to share with you some of those mistakes, along with strategies that you can use to easily fix them. These tactics took us years to learn and refine, but you can take these lessons and immediately apply them as you work to improve your writing curriculum.

Mistake #1: Not Providing a Framework for Students to Follow
We can’t instruct students to simply write a five paragraph essay on a given topic and in turn, expect well-structured, thoughtful analysis. With this approach, students often submit choppy essays that go off on a tangent with some evidence sprinkled in here and there. Been there and done that, and let’s be honest, grading these essays made us want to pull our hair out!

It was an absolute game-changer for us when we explicitly taught our students what we wanted them to include in a literary analysis essay, or Response to Literature, as we like to call it AND then gave them a graphic organizer that followed this framework. Immediately, students stopped saying, “I don’t know how to start” or “What do I write next?” Gone were the essays with a topic sentence and a quote from the text, but little to no explanation or analysis.

Here’s the basics of the framework we use for Literary Analysis writing:
  • Introduction: TAG (title, author, genre), summary, and claim/thesis
  • Body Paragraph(s): premise, introduction to evidence, evidence, and justification/analysis
  • Conclusion: restate claim, summary of evidence and concluding sentence (we call this last sentence a “mic drop” sentence)
We created a graphic organizer that has these headings along with a reminder of what each section entails as well as space for students to write and type. After requiring students to use the graphic organizer for several writing assignments, many of them stop needing it and can remember the basic framework as they start writing their latest well-organized and well-developed essay. Click here to download our freebie that includes an easy-to-use graphic organizer for your students to use!

-> Main Takeaway: Use a specific and clearly structured framework. 

Mistake #2: Not Including a Writing Sample for Students to Model
We admit, we were a little late to the game with this one, and only started doing this a few years into our teaching careers! But, seriously, now we wouldn’t think of giving a major writing assignment without a writing sample for students to analyze before they write their own. 

First of all, we realized that sometimes the questions we were asking our students to answer in a multi-paragraph Response to Literature, were way too difficult in terms of finding evidence, which resulted in weak essays. If we were struggling with crafting a writing sample, how could we expect students to write an essay without tremendous difficulty?

Now, we provide students with a sample Response to Literature on the same topic they are writing about. We spend class time highlighting the various elements of the essay mentioned above in our framework (TAG, claim, premise, etc.). Then we circle examples of strong vocabulary or effective transitions. This helps set the expectations for students when they begin to write their own essays.

-> Main Takeaway: Craft your own response to the prompt you are providing for students, ensuring that it truly is answerable. 

Mistake #3: Not Supplying Students with a Rubric
Most teachers have at least heard about the benefits of using rubrics, and you may even be using them already for your assignments. But, are the rubrics being used in the most effective way possible? 

First, it is crucial that students analyze the rubric BEFORE they begin writing their essay. Do they understand the language in the rubric itself? Do they need clarification on any of the expectations? The rubric should be their constant companion as they write, so they can check off that they are meeting the expectations. 

Second, have students use the rubric to assess the writing sample you provide them. This will help strengthen their awareness of the expectations, making them more likely to meet or exceed the expectations in their own writing. 

Finally, the power of the rubric doesn’t end when you pass it back filled with comments (honestly, we keep the comments to a minimum since the rubric we use is so thorough). Attach a writing reflection handout with the graded assignment and rubric and allow students time to reflect on their own writing and make improvements!

-> Main Takeaway: Using a rubric and reviewing it with students beforehand is an essential part of the writing process. 

Keep reading ... now that you know the three mistakes you might be making when teaching writing, we've created a free Resource Download for you ...
Our wish for you is to avoid these mistakes in your classroom, which is exactly why we've put together three incredible resources for you. A graphic organizer for your students to use, which makes following a framework so much easier, an easy-to-use rubric to make grading faster for you, and a student reflection that they can use to review their own writing. Click here now to grab these resources!

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