While driving down a busy Baton Rouge street, one tends to have a lot of time to think and reflect on things in life. One particular day, my thoughts wandered back to my days in school, especially elementary, middle, and high school, specifically on my education as a writer. In elementary, I hardly recall any composition that was uniquely my own except for a little bit of poetry as well as some fact–finding writing for social studies project reports. In middle school I had two great English teachers who required us to think creatively and effectively communicate our ideas in a way that I was not familiar. I remember writing lots of formulaic papers for literature classes in high school. However, it wasn’t until college that I was given instruction that helped me begin to better develop as a writer. Looking back, it seems as though my own writing education was overlooked. Fear not! Young writers are blossoming right here at Episcopal!
About fourteen and a half years ago, I began my career teaching little ones. Since day one, I was expected to teach writing in a workshop format that allowed students to choose their writing subject and thus increase their interest and motivation. Since then, not a year has gone by that I haven’t aimed to teach students to grow their writing skills, improving their skills as effective written communicators.
I watch my students daily and see how they enjoy making cards, notes, and signs for anyone that will take them. Children are naturally drawn to writing. They see the joy it brings to themselves as well as others. They quickly learn that they have choice in what they write and this becomes self-motivating.
Writing serves an important purpose in our lives: communication. We communicate through texting and emails on a daily basis to family, friends, coworkers, and more. We jot little reminders for ourselves so we won’t forget special tasks (you should see the sticky notes on my desk!). We make lists for shopping and cards for loved ones. For some, writing is more than simply a task…it’s pure enjoyment.
In the Episcopal Lower School, we teach students how to write for a variety of purposes: to recount, to entertain, to inform, and to persuade. Our ultimate goal is to create confident, independent writers. To reach this goal, we utilize a variety of teaching approaches grounded in national norms and expectations appropriate for each grade level. We teach writing through the prism of these three purposes so that students can grasp the components which make each unique and effective. To aid students in learning to love writing, students are able to choose their topic of writing. For example, in the expository writing unit, students might be asked to write a “teaching book”. Students are able to pick whatever they want to write about as long as they are teaching someone else in a factual way within the parameters of expository writing. The topic option allows the students to write about something that truly interests them, thus motivating them to want to write and do their best. They begin to see that writing can be fun! Their personality begins to present itself through their style, and their voice is projected in their writing.
written ideas in risk-taking fashion. Much like with science and math, it’s very helpful for students to have the freedom to practice writing, making mistakes along the way, and yet learning from those mistakes over time. Keep in mind that having conversations with your children on a daily basis makes a huge impact on the quality of their writing. More sophisticated minds help to create more sophisticated compositions.
In this day and age, children have more access than ever before to electronic communication. It’s our job as teachers to prepare students to learn who they are as writers and utilize those strengths so that students can be successful presently and in the future. Know that your children are being encouraged, challenged, and celebrated in their writing growth and will continue to do so for many years to come! We are proud of all of our little writers and look forward to seeing how much they truly grow!
Cory Lemoine is a first grade teacher with 14 years of experience in the classroom. As a graduate of Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Cory taught second and third grades for ten years in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. His journey continued to the Zachary Community School System for three years in first grade before joining the faculty at Episcopal. He is a dedicated member of the Capital Area Reading Council and Louisiana Reading Association. In his free time, he likes to travel, garden, read, craft, and enjoy time with family and friends.