Welcome to the VCOP community of educators!

Hello, you beautiful, inspiring educators. I’m so excited you decided to join our growing VCOP community. It is exciting that you’ve identified writing as an area you’d like to improve. You’ve decided to practise what you preach- all those times you asked the students to reflect on their skills and you’re now doing the same. Well done and thank you for choosing us.

You might be here because you have some students you need help supporting, or maybe the whole cohort is low, and you need a different approach. Perhaps writing is an area the whole school is focusing on. It’s likely, you are like me and have an average five year writing ability span in your single year level classroom. Or, maybe, you just heard the other educators shouting from the rooftops about how much they love Big Write and VCOP.

I bet you’re here because you are like me. You’re a great teacher, a truly passionate educator that honestly loves their job. But if you are honest, like I was, English, in particular writing, is not your strength area.

Whether you are fresh out of university or feel you have been teaching for ions, it doesn’t really matter. At some stage, you stood back and reflected upon your skills, and you realised there were a few areas that could use some tweaking. Perhaps some of my reflections will resonate with you. 

Let’s go back 15 years…

So here I am, standing in front of my class struggling to teach students how to write and how to write well. The ones that can write, continue to plod along as I cover the curriculum, and the ones that struggle continue to struggle and I spend all my time pushing them along. The curriculum is so overloaded, I don’t feel I have the time some students need. And they are at so many different ability levels, I don’t know how to support them all.

I’m struggling to engage the students and make writing fun. Every writing lesson is a chore for them, and they are always the last ones finished. Ok think Sammy, what tools did Uni equip you with…
DE Bono, Vygotsky, All empty vessels needing filling… and I flounder. University did not actually teach me ‘How to teach children how to write’.

Right fall back, how was I taught how to write at school?- hmm bad example I’m from the experimental curriculum ‘Teach them to be creative and the rest will follow’ –NOPE guys, didn’t work and now I have poor grammar skills that I need to look everything up before I teach the class so that I feel confident with the lesson.

Ok, so I look to my colleagues, what are they doing?

I have my writing displays up, just like them. I came in over Summer and made my room look pretty and the walls are filled. Every term, I am changing the theme or displays to suit what I’m about to teach.

I have ‘writing groups’ the same as them, and I too based them on the reading data, and they only change when reading levels change. I’m not looking at the English skills I am teaching that week and reforming groups based on those skills- but I don’t realise this yet. And even if I did, I don’t really know how to assess writing so that I can identify individual needs accurately.

I’m not in the junior school, so I don’t think I need to worry about warming the hands/fingers or brain up before writing…in fact I don’t even know about the importance of this yet! My lessons start straight away because I don’t know any oral language warm up games to play, like I would before Maths. I do a lot of the talking, thinking I am explicitly teaching them. We are brainstorming, but I am not focusing on the fact that only half a dozen students are engaged in the process. I am not checking in on their understanding before I send them off to try and complete the multi-step task in one go. Then they took so long to get started and write anything, and I get sucked into the orbit of the reluctant writers who use questions to avoid work tactic, that before I know it, the bell about to go and I am giving them a 2 minute (actually only 30 seconds left) warning to finish off and I am complaining to my colleagues that they are all writing the same, I woke up and it was a dream, the end, to be continued, endings!

What am I doing wrong?

I have the progress of writing posters up and every student has a name tag and they move their tag along as we brainstorm, plan, draft, edit, and publish. I am conferencing (aka correcting) the whole piece of writing with the red pen, like my teachers did to me- but I’m only get through the same fast finisher 4 or 5 students. So, of course, I am collecting all the other students’ books and marking them while they are not present again and again. What are they learning from the whole experience… nothing. In fact, I am probably killing off any desire to write, as all the students are seeing is red, and feeling like I am only focusing on the negative, (even if I am writing two stars and a wish). I am teaching editing, but I am encouraging them to wait until the end of the writing process, and to all use the same generic editing checklist I downloaded from the internet. I am not asking my students to reflect on the skills I just taught them so, it’s not embedding. I certainly don’t ask each student to read their work aloud every week.  In fact, talk is not a big part of my writing lessons- unless it’s coming from me, or those same 4 or 5 students each time.

If any of my experiences have resonated with you at all, if at any stage you said, ‘oh my goodness, same here’.  Then you’ve found the right community. I thought I was alone. I thought I was a dumb grad, and I was embarrassed, and I felt isolated, and I constantly doubted myself. So, I pretty much locked myself up in my classroom.

But I was wrong, I am not alone, and neither are you. A recent poll asking educators, if they struggle teaching writing, what factors do they feel impact their ability. In just 24hrs, 3295 responses were collected and every single factor I just said, mentioned.

So, again, welcome!
I am so glad you are here, because Big Write and VCOP has completely changed the way I teach writing. In fact, from addressing these areas of concern, my teaching practices on all subject areas have improved…and my students and I rekindled the love and joy for writing once again. Plus, they still had time for a game every day to celebrate finishing all their work.