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Try it Yourself First!

As teachers of writing, we know that using precise words in our writing allows our readers to visualize and understand what they're reading. Therefore, we advise our students to select precise words when they're writing. We take this aspect of our instruction seriously. We also know that avid readers develop an extensive vocabulary which they can use in their writing. That's why it's so important for our student writers to become effective readers.

As avid readers we are also discriminating readers. We read and delight in exquisite writing. We know what good writing sounds like and feels like.

Now that I am becoming more aware of my own writing process, I can empathize with my students: this is truly challenging work. And that's why it's important for me to write every day to experience what I am asking my students to try out in their own writing.

Playing close attention to my own writing process has been eye opening, if not painful. However, this emerging awareness will make me a better teacher and a better writer.

Several years ago I attended a post-conference institute at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) with Katie Wood Ray and Isoke Nia. I know the day-long institute must have been full of wonderful learning events. How could it not be? It was led by Katie and Isoke, but my biggest take-away from that day was Katie's advice to always try out any writing task we assign our students, preferably before they do it on their own. By experiencing what we ask our students to do as writers we will be more effective teachers of writing to our students. Unfortunately, I haven't always followed this wise advise. However when I do, it makes a difference in my teaching and my student's learning.

This month we are starting a new unit on argument writing with research. I plan to write and research right alongside my students. I will be reporting here about how it goes.
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