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Confessions of a Writing Teacher

I didn’t teach the literary essay unit of study until last year. Why? I WAS SCARED TO DEATH TO TEACH IT! It seemed so complicated and so important… what if I messed up? Well, I bit the bullet last year since my rationale for not teaching it was not acceptable in my mind. I taught them last year and was satisfied with the quality of the essay.

Fast-forward to 10:00 a.m. today. My class and I are in Writing Workshop. I started conferring with my students whose drafts were due today (everything except for the concluding paragraph, which I taught them how to write today). One after another I quickly discovered that their essays were really good. In fact, each one I read made me think, “Wow. This could be a mentor essay for next year’s class.” What an amazing feeling that was!!!

I’m so proud of my kiddos for their focus in minilessons and willingness to labor intensely to write these essays. Literary essays are hard work… at any age. However, at the age of nine, they’re certainly doing an amazing job.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

3 thoughts on “Confessions of a Writing Teacher Leave a comment

  1. That does answer the question. If I change my perspective and think of Test Taking as a genre, then I can spend some time on it and not feel like it is taking time and energy away from the things I want/need to teach.

    In truth, I want them to think of themselves as writers WAY MORE than I want them to become test takers, but The Test is a fact of life. I am just trying to find the balance.


  2. Lisa:

    I do a “test taking as a genre” study so that kids become familiar with the test. However, since kids are reading and writing all year long (I teach Reading and Writing Workshops with a balanced literacy approached; was trained by Calkins) and not prepping for tests, they actually do quite well. However, they still need that month of test-taking to get into the lingo of the test-taking genre.

    Does that help/answer your question? If not, post a reply to this comment.



  3. I just want to say “Thanks A LOT!” (note the sarcastic tone!) for taking away my excuse for not doing Literary Essays. “They are only 9!” has been my favourite one. We have just finished doing “Descriptive Reports” ala Tony Stead and are moving onto some letter writing. I want to do the letter writing. They like to write to people. But I am actually doing it because of The Test. I just found out that either letter writing or story writing will be on The Test next month, so I have to do that. My question to both of you…when you follow Lucy Calkins methods, do you think the kids still come out prepared enough for The Test? Do you have (or feel you have to) to focus on certain genres more than others, or do they simply become so comfortable with writing that The Test is no big deal??


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