As a teacher, I instill in my students the same love to read and write that I have by encouraging them to embrace their own learning styles, strategies, and interests. When we read in class, I tell them that I hope to hear a different interpretation of that reading from each of them. If we are writing on a similar topic, I tell that I hope to read different ways to write on that topic. We all read, write, think differently, and will interpret text differently. A classroom of differing learning, writing, and reading styles offer everyone in my class opportunities for reflection and growth. A classroom of different styles also requires that I employ different strategies of teaching. My teaching involves group discussions, activities, and writing; while at other lessons may involve different forms of media which may include PowerPoint presentations, TED Talk, audio, and or graphics.
Employing multiple teaching strategies does not come without risk. My pedagogy is one of risk-taking and being unafraid to make mistakes, and I expect my students to have this same philosophy towards their learning. My lessons do not always achieve what I want them to achieve and sometimes they may just fall flat on their face. However, I have the opportunity to correct my mistakes for the next lesson, and/or re-teach the lesson that lesson the following class period. I give my students the same opportunity to correct their mistakes that I give myself. When my students writing falls flat, I provide timely feedback and then conference on a strategy students need to take to correct those mistakes. I stress that my role is to give them the tools, guidance and instruction needed to succeed, and my students respond by asking questions freely asking me questions. They will ask for my opinions, and they will ask me “why”? As a class, we will discuss “why.”
One tool that I am committed to is having students write every day, and I write with them. We do this by journaling at the beginning of class. I will give them a topic that gets them thinking about what we will be discussing. For example, “What does reading like a writer mean to you?” For 5-7 minutes, we will free write as a class. Throughout our discussion, I will ask students to share what they journaled and how their thoughts fit with our discussion.
Writing cannot be improved without some form of a peer review workshop. I’ve tried different strategies to workshopping peer review, but that one I find most productive to both writing and reviewer is Kate Kostelnik’s, “Writing Center Theory and Pedagogy in the Creative Writing Classroom.” Her pedagogical approach to workshopping just makes sense. As a graduate student consultant working at the University of Nebraska – Omaha’s Writing Center, students and faculty from all areas of the campus brought their writing to be peer reviewed. So, why can’t Writing Center pedagogy be taken to the classroom? It can. What I found that I liked most about using a Writing Center model is that it allows the author and peer reviewer to have a conversation about the writing. The author does not sit back passively and listen to feedback, but active answering questions about their writing, and discussing strategies he/she can use after the peer review session is over to continue revising his/her writing.