Kids' Wings Advice
How to prepare students for writing composition tests

by Suzy Red

Teaching writing is fun...but always hard. I wrote a writing guide that I have allowed to go out of print. This guide really teaches HOW to teach writing! I developed the strategies over the many years I coached writing contests and taught in the Texas public schools. I've decided to begin to share it online with YOU! The quality isn't great because it was written on my Mac which I no longer have, so I've had to scan the pages in pdf format for you. Writing Persuasively will detail the steps to take to enable your students to develop a deep understanding of the process and make it less painful for you! This section teaches them to write to persuade what they want only. Writing Persuasively 2 takes the persuasive writing process to a higher level and to consider both sides when choosing their preference. If I hear good things from you and I know you would like more of the book, I'll start putting up more.

Basically, your kids need to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE! They ...and YOU...should write across the curriculum...
through social studies...from the point of view of Davy Crockett in the Alamo or Sam Houston when he...
through science, from the point of view of a rock explaining how he was made ...
or as drop of water telling about her life cycle...
or in math, by writing a paragraph explaining the steps they took in solving a problem...

I tell my children that if their writing can make me laugh, cry, or gasp, they're headed for an outstanding score!

STUDY LITERARY EXAMPLES in award-winning literature....revel in how the masters do it!

At the same time, you need to start by writing formally with your children...at least an hour a day. I find the following steps most helpful:

1. Prewrite...brainstorm, develop vocabulary (lots of word walls all over your room!), and make a plan...(each kind of writing needs a different plan)

2. Guide the writing...sentence by sentence. "How can we start our story to make our reader want to keep reading? Onomatopoeia? A Question? Someone speaking?" Then, write the sentence on an overhead transparency. Students copy. Reread the sentence. What can we add, change, or take away that will make THAT sentence a better sentence?" We then make those changes...together. That means kids ERASE, too, add a carat for an inserted word or phrase, capitalize, punctuate...whatever you do! It'll drive them crazy at first...but THAT is learning to write! Then I ask another guiding question that will take them to the next sentence. Together, we write, then revise/edit what we have written. Now I reread the WHOLE composition...yes, just 2 sentences so far. We see if they fit together. Did I leave out anything? Do we need a transition between them? Can we add a simile or metaphor? Change something so the kids will see that our rereading has a purpose. Continue on, sentence by sentence...you are the journeyman...they the apprentices....share your talents and don't be afraid of talking over their heads! You won't have to do guided writing more than a couple of times for the kids to begin to understand.

3. Begin a "momma-may-I" formal writing. Give students a prompt. They create a plan, write one sentence and must then come to you for quick-checking and advice before moving to their next sentence. You must see evidence of edit/revision before you'll check! Once that sentence is okayed, they write their next sentence and then come to you for checking. Students who have gotten the hang of it may be given the "stamp of approval" to go ahead with their writing on their own while you work with kids who are a little slower in picking it up. Some students will write with you for a couple of months...that's okay...it's building the scaffolding they need! Limit responses to two pages so they get used to writing for standardized text lengths.

4. Put the writing on trial. When a composition is complete, take the best writing available and make a transparency. Celebrate the great parts. Look for evidence of the PLAN... organization... paragraphing.... The class reads together and suggests improvements/revision/editing. That person then rewrites incorporating the changes. They are learning by example to become collaborators in writing.

5. Celebrate final compositions by posting them on bulletin boards, binding them into books, mailing them to publishers! Your respect for your kids' beautiful writing that came as a result of HARD work will be the impetus to move them to even more beautiful writing. They'll be writing for the REAL world, for the FUTURE! Standardized writing tests will be a snap.

6. Be part of the writing process! Don't just assign writings for THEM to do. Do them YOURSELF as well! Share your frustrations, ask for their advice, and convey your love of writing with your students!

In a nutshell, , that's about the best advice I can give you! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions we can post...or if you hit a snag!

Visit our Writing Room for more ideas that you can use to help your students fall in love with writing!

Keep walkin' in the sunshine and passin' it along!
Suzy Red