Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Teachers as writers

Tessa Woodward
This was the title of a recent webinar hosted by Cambridge English Teacher and presented by Tessa Woodward.  What follows is a summary of what she had to say.

As teachers, we need to make sure that all of our writing is clear and accurate.  We need to proof-read everything we write and be strict about self-editing.  As good writers, we need to use lexical variation and avoid repetition.

These are some of the types of writing that teachers do:

Writing on the board

We can be creative even with the most basic writing we do, as in the example above where the lesson plan is displayed as a menu, with homework as a takeaway!  We can use colour to highlight information.
Comments on students' work
We need to vary our praise words and not use 'good' all the time!
Lesson plans
These are usually written just for ourselves (unless for observation purposes), so we tend to develop our own idiosyncratic ways of writing.
Logs, reflective diaries and journals
These are indubitable proof of your own CPD and should be written in such a way that they can be referred to by others.  You can use the Cambridge English Teacher website to keep your journal.  Critical Incidents in Teaching by David Tripp is a good reference source for this topic.
Writing with our students
Here, we are talking about interactive dialogue journals, where each student has a notebook in which the teacher writes a letter to him or her.  The student replies with a letter of their own written in the notebook.  This is an ongoing conversation and serves as a record of your learning relationship.  You can read more about this in Joy Peyton's book.
Materials creation
  • Adapting coursebook exercises - making examples more relevant to your students, for example.
  • Writing your own reading texts.
  • Adapting authentic texts.
Writing for other teachers
  • Get an idea first.
  • Pilot it with your students.
  • Think it through and read around the topic.
  • Write it down as if you were explaining to a colleague (clear and informal).
  • Read it out loud to yourself and others.
  • Change any muddled parts and make them better.
  • Spell check, grammar check, and note the word count.
  • Look around at local, regional, national and international periodicals for language teachers - look at websites for teachers, too.
  • Read their guidelines as to readership, length, style, format, etc.
  • Edit your piece to make it fit the periodical you've chosen.
  • Send it in with a pleasant cover note.
  • Expect your idea to be edited!
  • Idea first
  • Then write
  • Then think about publishing
It's important that your motivation to write is clear.  You should be writing for you and for your students first and foremost.  Then, you want to share your ideas with colleagues and then the wider industry.  If this is the case, then rejection doesn't matter.
We write a lot as teachers and we learn incredibly useful writing skills by doing it.  We already are writers!


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