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2017 was a year of learning: we learned that ventriloquism is coming back into fashion. We learned that a Total Solar Eclipse can bring a country—if not the world—together. We learned about the strength that can come from communities after floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. And we learned that even in the face of turmoil and uncertainty, that we keep on growing, changing, and learning.

In the classroom, alongside these life lessons, we also learned about best practices in writing. From differentiation to teaching foundational writing skills, here are three lessons about writing instruction from 2017 that we can reflect on.

Write More

Teachers in every subject area understand that in order for students to get better at writing, they need to write more. Like a muscle that needs exercise to improve its strength, our students need to write a little, every day, to improve their basic skills, brainstorming techniques, and overall writing abilities. From journal entries to five-minute writing stations, there are a variety of resources available for instructors to get kids writing on the regular.

Differentiation is Key

Carol Ann Tomlinson, Ed.D, is a leading voice for differentiation in the classroom. She helps educators to see the value in creating a classroom that reaches a variety of learning styles. Just like the students themselves, differentiated instruction looks different for each classroom and can be cultivated in a number of ways:

  • The Content (what the students are learning): Does every student need to work on basic grammar skills? Or can a student with more advanced writing skills work on mastering a more complex writing concept?
  • The Process (activities used to assist the learning): Are some students able to jump straight to their rough draft? Or would some students benefit from a warm-up activity or a graphic organizer involving pictures before they put pencil to paper?
  • The Products (the demonstration of learning): Will every student need to write a five-paragraph essay to show they understand how to write effectively? Or can some students write a newspaper article or a play script to demonstrate their learning?

Teachers Are Writers, Too

Nothing piques a student's interest like a tidbit about their teacher as a person. The revelation that their teacher is also a reader, a writer, and a risk-taker helps students to understand that learning is a lifelong process. The more teachers can write alongside their students, model revision and editing, then share their drafts and final products, the more that students will see the value of the writing process and give it a try themselves.