Teaching Adolescent Writers

In his 2007 book, ‘Teaching Adolescent Writers’, Kelly Gallagher discusses his ‘Top Ten Writing Wrongs in Secondary Schools’. He teaches in California but most of his points are relevant to my experience in a state school just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. After spending much of last session working on my teaching of reading and promotion of personal reading, I’ve been turning my focus increasingly onto my teaching of writing. I returned to this book over the summer as it had a profound effect on me when I first read it and I needed a refresher course. It surprised me how much my views had changed.teaching writers

Now I want to write a series of posts dealing with as many of the ten points as possible. As always, I begin with the selfish purpose of reflecting on my own practice, attempting to pin down any thoughts or strategies in time for next session. I’ll see how that goes. I may merge two, even three, of the points together. what would be even better would be if, as I don’t have all the answers and am nowhere near them, the posts could open a debate or discussion amongst English teachers, or anyone else who has an opinion. I’d be interested to hear your comments on each. Anyway, here is the list:

Top Ten Writing Wrongs In Secondary Schools

1. Students are not doing enough writing.

2. Writing is sometimes assigned rather than taught.

3. Below grade level writers are asked to write less that others instead of more than others.

4. English language learners are often short-changed as well.

5. Grammar instruction is ineffective or ignored.

6. Students are not given enough timed writing instruction or practice.

7. Some teachers have little or no knowledge of district and state writing standards.

8. Writing topics are often mandated with little thought about the prior knowledge and interests of the students.

9. Teachers are doing too much of the work. Students are not doing enough work.

10. Teachers need help assessing student writing.


4 thoughts on “Teaching Adolescent Writers

  1. Hi Kenny – as I’m in the late stages of redrafting my book on literacy I read this with interest. But I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with Mr Gallagher – the only point that I think I agree with is number 5. Maybe that’s because I don’t have enough information about the others to completely understand the points he’s trying to make? I look forward to your follow up posts.

    Cheers, David

    • Thanks David. Sorry you’re disappointed with him. I rather like his work as I’ve said on many occasions. I’m using the points as an introduction to a discussion on the subject so suppose I’m merely trying to develop my own thinking here. I’ve used some of the strategies from his books and they work really well for me. I look forward to your book and, hopefully, your comments on my posts if and when I ever get round to writing them. Hope you’re enjoyong your holiday,

  2. Hi Kenny,
    Just started reading your blog which I find very informative. I have just finished an atq in English in a rural school in Oban. Previously I was an re teacher and I am just coming to grips with the vast array of skills and outcomes in English. I am interested in your ideas of how you study a set text with a class – teacher led, guided groups etc? To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement and I’m loving many of your ideas on your blog. Also, sorry, are there many teach meets in Scotland – what a great idea! Any help much appreciated!,

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