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Teaching Middle School Writers

At this point in the year, the state writing tests dominate instruction in many schools. For my new book, Teaching Middle School Writers, I conducted a national survey of 1500 students. The survey revealed that students have a rich writing life outside of school; they treasure this life because they can choose to write about topics they care about—topics they're passionate about. I think we can offer "test prep" along with choice in writing topics. I recommend that teachers simulate the state tests every 6 to 8 weeks by inviting students to respond to a writing prompt. Use their writing to identify what skills need reteaching and present mini-lessons on these topics. During interim times, students can choose topics, even within a genre such as persuasive or narrative writing. I find that students do well on tests when they plan in detail, use the writing process, and have been taught writing craft and technique.
Please weigh in with your thoughts and ideas.
Laura Robb


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I've just finished my first year and this is something I noticed and wanted to do something with all year! I began allowing free-writing time during free-reading time because I had so many students who were "writing books" and were always wanting me to check out and comment on what they had written. Middle School is such a time for personal expression and experimentation that I almost felt cruel for having guidelines to all my writing assignments. I am definitely planning on implementing more free-write time via Writer's Notebooks and state-test-simulated prompts that will allow their creativity a channel that is different from the other typical writing assignments.

Laura Robb

Dear Corinne,

Its wonderful that after one year of teaching you have recognized what motivates middle school students to write with passion and joy! My belief is that if you teach craft and technique--how to write well, students will ace the state tests as long as we make them test wise.

Keep up the wonderful reflective stance on your teaching!

All best,

Laura Robb

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