Writing is a process that needs time to develop, and following a model is part of the process.

I was part of a meeting with a group of teachers who were looking at some of their student's writing. We were stuck at why the students hadn't "got" the point of the lesson. They hadn't got deeper into writing about their own experiences. It didn't sound authentic, although they had obviously paid attention to the teachers' models of the writing style. In fact, a lot of the writing just seemed to be a variation of the model.

So, we all talked about how we had presented the lesson. We were defending our own teaching practices.

Quietly, one teacher said, "Maybe we should think about the time we tried a new skill. When I took an art class and we were learning to draw, and we all followed the teacher's model. We copied it. Then we copied another artist's work. That is allowed. You see art students all the time at the museum, with a notebook, copying a great work of art--or part of it."

Isn't that the truth? Don't we all copy someone else when we are learning a new skill--swimming, skiing, drawing, writing? But, as we gradually grow more confident in the skill, then our brains take over and we include our own experiences.

Too often in school, with the amount of curriculum that we have to cover, we teach the skill but do not provide the time to develop the skill so that it becomes automatic enough for us to use the skill in our own way.

You don't always have to teach harder; you do need to provide the time for kids to learn. Give the feedback and involve them in knowing what the learning goal is, but allow time to learn, solidify, apply!

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