“Nobody ever taught me how to teach students to write!” I hear this comment again and again from teachers of all grades, and I immediately empathize with them. Nobody ever taught me how to teach writing either, especially not creative writing. In fact, it was while trying to teach my students to write and produce good narrative pieces, that I first began to dabble with words. I began to write alongside my students in an effort to gain insight into the writing process. What could be so difficult about producing good narrative pieces? Little did I know!
Not only did I discover that writing wasn’t easy – it isn’t supposed to be easy – but it was also very time consuming. However, I also learned that if you did it well, it could be incredibly rewarding. As an author, I could control my reader’s feelings, direct their emotions, make them see and experience what I wanted them to. What a power trip! And to do it with words – that was the best thing of all. I began writing more seriously and experienced an epiphany of sorts – I didin’t write the way I taught my students to write. As I became more adept as an author, I decided to approach the teaching of writing in what I saw as a more natural manner. The result was infinitely more successful than my original attempts to teach writing.
While doing writing workshops with students, I realized that I still hadn’t necessarily addressed the teaching dilemma. How does a teacher learn to teach writing? I thought that rather than reinventing the wheel, teachers might benefit from the knowledge I’d acquired through a unique combination of my teaching and writing. My professional development workshops do not present a “canned” writing program. Appreciating that many teachers are already doing things that work exceptionally well in the writing classroom, I prefer to present specific skills and strategies to facilitate writing, and practical ideas to integrate these into any classroom. Knowing also that instructional time is limited and that there is no shortcut for time in the writing process, I have developed short, fun activities that promote the development of these skills, firmly believing that writing is like basketball. You can’t play the game until you know the skills, but if you practice the specific skills, and are aware of the game as a whole, everything will come together. At the same time, I promote a literature-based writing program,so that students can become cognizant, with teachers’ help, of what good writing is. Although I have studied the theory behind teaching writing, I tend to offer teachers what I wanted most as a teacher – practical ideas that I could implement in the classroom tomorrow.
One of the most wonderful things about writing is that the skill set for any age is universal. Skills are developed and enhanced as students mature, but the foundation remains the same. Therefore, my professional development inservices are designed for all staff members – teachers of all grade levels, teacher aides, resource teachers, etc – and are easily adaptable. For more information about professional development opportunities, please contact me directly.
Professional Development: Cathy is available for professional development seminars and is able to present to large or small groups. She often presents at teachers’ conventions and can utilize either a workshop or presentation mode. Cathy’s professional development inservices generally focus on methods to strengthen student writing, generate great stories or develop school-wide strategies and continuums to achieve writing goals.
Generating Authentic Writing Tasks: Drawing on her extensive development of creative writing projects and her exposure to balance inquiry-based learning, Cathy is available to help teachers facilitate and design their own writing programs based on broader questions or specific curriculum content. She works with grade teams to help teachers weave writing into their year-long plans in a meaningful and enjoyable manner.