I’ve always been a big believer that the “tracks of teaching” should be evident when walking into a classroom. By this, I mean that if I simply scan the walls of a classroom, I should be able to know what has been studied. Right now, if you would enter the classroom I teach in, you would know instantly that we are studying persuasion. Upon a closer look, you would know we’ve been looking at how to use narrative scenes as a way to persuade. There has also been a strong focus on emotional appeal, as well as real-world places to send the finished pieces.
If you would speak to my students, you would gain a sense that they believe strongly in their topics, that they have lots of evidence spinning around their minds in support of their claim, and they believe that their writing will matter — that it has power to influence others.
Yesterday I listened to Dan Feigelson speak. He mentioned that the tracks of teaching should be evident in students’ final pieces. This made me more acute when reading my students’ final drafts, which they turned in yesterday.
They have strong emotional appeal, as well as excellent narrative scenes to help prove their claims. The writing is filled with voice. And, then, well . . . most of them kinda crumble from there. (Until the endings, which, for the most part, pack a punch — another explicit teaching point from our study.)
I’m reminded how much goes into writing well. I’m reminded of the process of learning. Mostly, though, I’m reminded how important my feedback is to these writers. With finesse, I will offer to them all that they are doing well. Since they were all feeling pressure to complete the final draft by Friday and they all wanted more time, on Monday I will explicitly teach how to elaborate on the other pieces of evidence in their editorials. They have stats, expert quotes, examples to support their point. They simply haven’t elaborated on those parts in their editorials. They’ll give it a whirl and feel more confident about sending their work out into the world.
This process of finding tracks of teaching is important. It is essential that we are able to identify what we’ve taught and whether our students have grasped it. Although I have a “wish list” of things I would have liked to see my students do in their editorials, it is even more important that I acknowledge all they have done well, accepting they will continue to grow as writers. I’m one stop on the journey that is made up of many many many teachers. It takes a village to grow a writer!
Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.