5 Steps for Choosing Back to School Writing Recipes

Photo by Photodjo/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Photodjo/iStock / Getty Images

Step 1:  Noooooooooooooooooo! 

Scream because summer reading and relaxation brain is about to be filled with school is starting, to do list brain

Step 2:  Have a Teacher Dream.  There are three types of Teacher Dreams:

  • Type 1: Suddenly Naked

  • Type 2: Total Mutiny

  • Type 3: Completely Unprepared

(If you're reading this and you're not a teacher, please know that Teacher Dreams are a real thing that usually happen during the dog days of summer.  Teachers, if I've missed your favorite type of Teacher Dream, please let me know in the comments, but I digress!)

Step 3: Get crystal clear on essential criteria for any writing recipe you select for the first weeks of school:

  • It must fill the classroom with the students' stories. Show students their stories matter. The air in your classroom will feel different than rooms where there isn't time for their tales. Student stories create connection. Connection begets community. Community begets kids who are receptive to all your teaching magic.

  • It must be easy so students' brains are receptive when you teach writing routines you will use for the rest of the year. If the cognitive load on your right out of the gates writing recipes is too massive, you're gonna lose your audience. Keep the writing recipe easy so students can balance writing with learning all your new routines for getting words on the page and sharing and response and revision and editing and ALL THE THINGS. What's the best way to select an "easy" writing recipe? First, choose a writing recipe that involves some kind of personal content. Then, kids are writing from plenty and less abstraction. If you begin with writing about the causes of the Civil War or the digestive system of puppies, it's too abstract. Second, using a mentor text, provide a structural frame, genre, and/or line that students can borrow. All your students need to do is supply their own original content.

  • Even though you provide a genre, structure, or borrowed line, students must be able to choose their own content. From the beginning, show students that you honor and expect their ability to find their own topics. Students want ownership. Give it to them. It's the first step to growing great writers.

Step 4: Write samples.

  • Of course, you can do this on the fly (right when you teach the lesson which is always good, too!), but if this is the first time you're doing a new writing recipe, it's good to get in the trenches and know what you're asking kids to do. This will influence how you teach writing more than any expensive professional development or awesome websites like this one! Read your sample no matter how much you blush or shake or talk in a high-pitched voice. Tell kids how and when you struggled in the process. Be proud of the lines that soared and made your heart grow three times bigger. It's the best way I know to connect with kids so the stage is set for an awesome year of amazing learning.

Step 5: Anticipate the coming year. 

New students, new stories, and a fresh start.  God bless you all!

Always writing,