Lately, my professional reading has focused on writing. I recently read Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Poems are Teachers and Ruth Ayres’ Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers. Both books revitalized my writing instruction and have encouraged me to continue to make writing a featured part of my instruction. Although I love to write and now consider myself “a writer,” teaching writing has always been a challenge, particularly as a resource teacher. Balancing reading and writing can be difficult during intervention time, but I cannot imagine not writing with my students. Unfortunately, though, I’ve found that many specialists do not focus on writing because of time constraints. One friend who teaches in another district noted sadly that she didn’t have time to write with her students because of all of the things that she was expected to cover in a thirty minute lesson.
While time is often cited by specialists as a reason for not developing a habit of writing with students, another issue appears to relate to the intervention materials used with students. Some specialists are expected to follow specific programs with fidelity. Even though many programs state that they include a writing component, that element often seems to be very structured and represents more of a response to reading or to support phonics instruction instead. Students need opportunities to respond to their reading (but not to every single thing that is put in front of them) and writing activities like dictated sentences are great for reinforcing phonics concepts, but intervention plans also need to include time dedicated for students to be writers. We often consider and target a student’s oral reading fluency, their word recognition, their spelling knowledge, or their comprehension of text when crafting interventions. Some of my students have a wealth of wonderful ideas and so much to say, but they lack an understanding of how to communicate that message. Other students struggle to identify something to write about and need support in that area. Then, there are students who are not only challenged with finding something to write about, but also struggle to get that idea onto a page. As a result, I spend time working with them to develop their skills as writers and I believe that including writing as a valued part of my intervention plans does not detract from, but instead enhances all aspects of my instruction. We are readers and writers in room 16!