Teachers can motivate students by modeling prewriting strategies that enable students to tackle writing assignments step-by-step. Kerry P. Holmes, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, University of Mississippi, tells student teachers to show the students, don’t just tell them how you write. She says they must model their thinking as they begin a writing assignment. Teachers must show how they struggle to come up with ideas of what to write. Children have misconceptions about adult writers. They think words and ideas just flow onto the paper.
When teachers let students see and hear the struggle to select a topic, decide which information to include, and determine how to organize the information, students are less afraid to try. For students with very poor writing skills, it may be necessary to start by coauthoring a piece with a peer or an adult. Get some ideas on paper, then revise and edit and produce a final draft together. By showing them how to break a writing task down into several prewriting and rewriting steps, students acquire the strategies needed for writing. By sharing their own struggles, and modeling the stages of writing and the thinking that goes along with them, teachers take the mystery out of the process and reduce students’ fear of failure.
“Show Don’t Tell – The Importance of Explicit Prewriting Instruction,” The Clearing House, Volume 76, Number 5, June 2003, pp. 241-243.
Published in ERN November 2003 Volume 16 Number 8