From the time a child first enters school until they complete middle school—maybe longer—it seems homework often consists of some combination of math, spelling, maybe a grammar exercise, social studies, science, and reading. What about writing?
Tip # 4: Send Writing Home
Given that there seems to be less and less time for creative writing, why not consider making it a part of homework? Provide a prompt, if needed, and give your students a week to write a story. (I’m not suggesting you pile on writing homework every night. That would only create kids who hate the subject and make homework a nightmare.) You can collect all the stories and grade them as a simple homework assignment, or you can collect a small number of them on different days of the week and give your students a formal grade and/or feedback, and then they can revise if they choose or if you want, or they can move on to a new piece. By having a small number due on different days assessing should become more manageable, and in turn, meaningful, but these are decisions to be made based on you and your classroom.
If you are incorporating units of study in your writer’s workshop, then sending writing home on a nightly basis seems like a natural fit. You might consider having due dates for drafts so you can give your students written feedback, thus providing them with an opportunity to engage in real revision based on your comments. (Again, by having a small number due on different days, reading and giving feedback should be more manageable.)
Students need increased opportunities to think about and work on their writing outside of the classroom, at different times in the day and in different environments. Those of you who like using writer’s notebooks with your students, here’s another opportunity. The writing notebook can go home nightly so that your students begin to better understand they can use this tool when away from their desk and outside of the classroom. (Mine travels with me everywhere. Some of my very best sentences and ideas happen in my head when I’m far away from my writing desk.)
Communicating with parents
Take the opportunity to help parents understand the goals and their role in this process. Start by explaining to parents what the expectations are when you meet them early in the year at your Open House or Back To School Night. Follow that up with newsletters on how to help with writing at home. With a team approach, you can capitalize on parent support.
What if your student forgets his draft at home? Doesn’t class time become wasted the next day? Having parents on the same page will help to prevent this, and by taking advantage of google docs, thumb drives, and email, connecting home and school is easier than ever. If there isn’t a computer at home, you can make a photocopy of the draft before it leaves the classroom. Yes, this might be a hurdle, but it is one you can overcome.
I do not know anyone who will argue with the old adage, more reading makes better readers. The same is true for writing. Get your students writing. And talking about writing. Send writing home. Celebrate writing!
I’d love to hear from you if you find Mr. Terupt’s tip helpful or if you have additional thoughts or questions. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can visit Rob at www.robbuyea.com. Look for tip #5 to be posted on Monday, November 2nd.