Education Letter to the Editor

When Teaching Writing, Focus on Skills, Not Product

October 02, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

I understand well Gary Mielo’s frustration with students’ writing revisions (“Writing as Process: Rewarding the Slipshod?,” Commentary, Sept. 12, 2007). However, writing for many is, as it was for Truman Capote, “like sitting down at the typewriter and slitting the wrists.” In my kindergarten-through-graduate-school teaching experiences, I have watched my students’ struggle with writing. They want to write well, but suffer over the many aspects of good writing.

While I agree with Mr. Mielo that just handing back students’ writing with corrections isn’t the answer, I think holding them to one perfect first draft isn’t either. What I have found effective as a writing teacher is to follow Nancie Atwell’s suggestion of creating a skill-sheet inventory for each student. During one-on-one writing conferences with me, each student targets the skills he or she will accomplish in assignments. While grading my students’ writing, I check the skill sheet that I keep for each student and reward the accomplishment of those skills. This way, students are not responsible for every aspect of good writing, but for a specific and growing list of writing skills.

Grace L. Sussman


Garfield Elementary School

Loveland, Colo.