Effective middle school writing instruction begins with a clear understanding of where your students are and where you wish them to be. As Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

One easy way to get clear—objectively clear—on where your students are, and where you wish them to be, is to examine a collection of released student writing samples from a state writing assessment. Trained graders have evaluated and scored these student-writing samples using an objective rubric. Here is a link to the best collection I have found: Elementary Writing Samples, Middle School Writing Examples, Sample Essays.

Now you must ask yourself a few questions about your students and about your plans for teaching them writing.

Three Important Questions to ask yourself about your Middle School Writing Instruction

1. Are your middle school students remedial writers, on grade level, or high achieving writers?

2. How will you bridge the gap between your remedial writers and your high achieving writers?

3. What are a few appropriate goals and objectives for your middle school writing instruction?


The Qualities of Effective Middle School Writing

Ideally, middle school teachers would begin their writing instruction with the following set of skills. That being said, I’ve taught both elementary school and middle school in the inner-city, and I’ve found that most students are missing the necessary foundation that helps these skills take root and grow:

1. Students apply the skills of using precise, concise, clear, descriptive, and distinctive language.

2. Students apply advanced levels of syntax and sentence structure.

3. Students develop knowledge and skill of writing in a variety of genres across the curriculum.

4. Students engage in deep analysis of many genres of writing and use evaluative rubrics in their analysis.

5. Students apply advanced language usage, sentence structure, and organizational structure to essay writing and other whole composition assignments.

6. Students provide relevant details, support, and evidence for thesis statements, controlling ideas, and main ideas.

Put simply, with struggling middle school writers, it behooves the middle school writing teacher to build a multi-paragraph writing foundation beforehand, one that makes sense to both their struggling writers and their high-achieving writers. Creating this foundation beforehand, makes what follows easier. Additionally, building this foundation can help you create a common bridge between the remedial writers and the high achieving writers in your class.

Bridging the Gap between Remedial Writers and High Achieving Middle School Writers

One of the great frustrations in teaching middle school writing is the vast range of writing skills that students in the same class possess. There is often a cavernous gap between the high achievers and the struggling middle school writers, especially when compared with both elementary school and high school writers.

In elementary school, the gap in student achievement is smaller because there has been less time for the gap to grow. In high school, students are usually on different career paths, and as such are in different classrooms. In short, middle school teachers must build a bridge between remedial writers and high achievers—a bridge that effectively allows them to scaffold instruction for their remedial writers, while also keeping their high achieving writers engaged.


A Four-Step Plan for Scaffolding Instruction for Remedial Writers

1. Get everyone on the same page using Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay.

2. Scaffold the new, more advanced instruction.

3. Remediate students who still struggle.

4. Use effective student writing and writers to serve as models and modelers.

With Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay, you will:

1. Quickly get everyone on the same multi-paragraph whole composition page!

2. Easily remediate with students who still struggle!

3. And because you will have now engaged all of your students, your new (more advanced) writing instruction will actually WORK! You will be building upon a foundation that makes sense to everyone!


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