Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who would benefit from this book?
Teachers at all levels of teaching writing. There will be lessons on craft and technique, using mentor texts, lessons on teaching grammar to improve students' writing, strategies for improving struggling writers, the benefits of establishing writing criteria for each piece, integrating twenty-first century literacies into your curriculum. Whether you're teaching one or ten years, there will be something for you.
2. How will this book support students who don't get mini-lessons?
Robb will show you how to develop scaffolds, know when to reteach, and how conferring can bring students along.
3. Why confer?
One-on-one conferences—short, three to five minute focused conferences--can move students forward. To make this point, you'll observe Robb conferring with students on the DVD. In the book, you'll study ways to use conferences during each writing stage. You'll also see how conferring helps you build trust with students and get to know them better. It's the ideal forum for scaffolding and reteaching.
4. How can I confer when I have so many students and such little time?
First, you'll show students how to confer with each other. You'll find forms that help students peer revise, peer edit, and self-revise and self-edit before you even read a plan or draft. With four to five classes a day, Robb will show you how to reduce your work load by teaching students to work together. The result? Better first drafts for you to read and more time to confer and scaffold.
5. How do I support students who struggle with writing?
Robb will share the research of Graham, Perin, and Harris on helping learning disabled, special education, and struggling students. She shows you how to enlarge these students' mental models of the writing process and emphasize the importance of planning. With detailed plans, these (and all) students can improve. Included in the book are writing plans by Katherine Paterson for Bridge to Terabithia and Jean Van Leeuwen’s plan for Cabin on Trouble Creek. Students can study how professional writers’ plans and observe how much thought goes into writing during this stage.
6. How will this book help me with test prep?
First, teaching students to write well is a sure way to passing the test at high levels. Robb places test prep and follow-up lessons in the context of writing workshop and more traditional classrooms. She'll invite you to simulate your state test every 6 to 8 weeks. Then, with colleagues, read papers to find strengths and areas that need reteaching or additional teaching. Using students' writing—whether choice or test-prep-- to determine your mini-lessons and scaffolds will enable them to improve all year.
7. How can I model excellent writing when I don't like to write?
Robb will make these feelings melt away as she shows you how to use mentor or teaching texts by the best authors. You can watch Robb doing this on the DVD in the book and in Chapter 3.
8. How is this book different from traditional workshop?
The lessons Robb offers work well in a workshop setting or in a more traditional classroom. Her lessons are the timeless ones and in the book you’ll explore ways to involve students in peer conferences as well as self and peer evaluation of each process stage. However, Robb frames her writing curriculum around a national survey and around contemporary researchers such as Daniel Pink, Howard Gardner, Stephen Graham, Dolores Perin, and David Coker as well as recommendations made by NCTE and Writing Next.
9. Why is it important to set criteria and how does this help writers?
Criteria grow out of the mini-lessons you teach and what students already know. Criteria let students know writing expectations before they plan and draft. Criteria make it easy for you, peers, and the students themselves to respond to, revise and edit, and grade writing.
10. How does this book support current classroom teachers?
This book will provide you with strategies and ideas for meeting the needs of the wide-range of writing abilities in your classes. You'll learn key lessons that can improve students' writing and help them achieve on state tests and at the same time learn to communicate with diverse audiences in meaningful ways. It will enable you to frame a writing curriculum that responds to what adolescents need and what school districts recommend.
11. Does this book offer teachers in training and students in schools of education special insight?
Robb bases this book on a national survey interpreted by the statistics department of Michigan State University, integrates the survey’s results with anecdotal data from students and teachers, and includes contemporary research on the writing process, the book represents what preservice teachers and those in graduate programs need. Steve Graham, Currey-Ingram Professor, Vanderbuilt University describes Robb’s book this way: “This is the real deal—practical, effective, teacher friendly, and engaging. A must read for anyone interested in teaching writing to middle school students.”