Back to the Classroom

25 Sep

One of the first things I noticed when I walked into the high school’s speech language room was the bulletin board. It wasn’t just the bright colors that caught my eye, but the writing on the wall. As a writer, the words made me want to sit down and answer each question with my current work in progress in mind. My only regret was that I couldn’t drop everything and start scribbling, as this was my first day on the job and I was hired well after the first day of school.

The words came from Step Up to Writing by Maureen E. Auman. Auman spent years trying to teach students reading and writing and ended up teaching other teachers what she’d learned over the years. Many high school students have trouble writing anything more than a few paragraphs and her methods are basic, practical, and helpful instruction on writing assignments, assessments, and everyday writing tasks. The end result is to help all students meet or exceed state standards in reading and writing.

The following questions are on the bulletin board. Perhaps you will find the questions inspiring as well. See if you can resist picking up a pencil or typing the information in. Do one for each character.

WHO is the story about?

WHERE and WHEN does your story take place?

WHAT happened to the character?

WHAT are the character’s feelings about what happened?

WHAT does the character want to do?

WHAT does the character do?

HOW does the character solve the problem?

To begin with/first





WHAT happened as a result of the action?


HOW does the character feel about the consequences?


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14 responses to “Back to the Classroom

  1. Janis

    September 25, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Mary, first of all, hallelujah that educators are stilling trying to teach writing to this hurry-up, emoticon-driven young culture.

    I think the questions are a good springboard to the craft. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mary Vine

      September 25, 2011 at 7:31 PM

      Writing is so hard for some of the students even with the questions. Thanks, Janis.

  2. Meredith Conner

    September 25, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    What a wonderful way to teach our kids about writing!!

    • Mary Vine

      September 25, 2011 at 7:32 PM

      I thought it was a good program, too. Thanks, Meredith!

  3. Clarissa Southwick

    September 25, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    I love these basic questions that always bring us back to the heart of the story. Thanks for sharing, Mary. 🙂

  4. Carley Ash

    September 25, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    It all seems so easy on a bulletin board.

    • Mary Vine

      September 25, 2011 at 7:46 PM

      You have a point there! Thanks for commenting, Carley!

  5. Liz Fredericks

    September 26, 2011 at 6:18 AM

    Excellent post, Mary! Going back to the basics works so well to kick start writing when you’re stuck. I’m going to use your list this morning.

    • Mary Vine

      September 26, 2011 at 9:24 AM

      Hope it helps! Thanks, Liz!

  6. Marsha R. West

    September 26, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    Well, first bless you for going into the classroom after the year began. It’s hard enough with the running start of inservices and time to plan. I remember years and years ago subbing for an excellent teacher in a high school English class. That was my first introduction to the concept of rewriting–that we don’t have to get it right the first time. The h.s.teacher actually taught the “rules” through the process of writing. Later, my younger daughter had a teacher trained in the Atwell method. Similarly, she wrote and wrote. Mini lessons focused on what she needed. That year she wrote a 40 page back and front story.

    As a principal working with students struggling to write that 4th grade writing paper for the State Test, I’d beg them to put down anything. We’d fix it later. The kids had no chance if they didn’t write a single word, and that’s where some of them were, staring at the lined sheet.

    So good luck to you this year, Mary. You’ll be very important to them. Marsha

    • Mary Vine

      September 26, 2011 at 6:23 PM

      I know students freeze, not knowing what to put down, especially when they have to do the introduction first. When they have time to write a paper, I tell them to start anywhere and then come back and do the introduction and the conclusion. Isn’t that the way most of us do it? Thanks for commenting, and thanks for what you do for students, too!

  7. Lynn Mapp

    September 26, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    Step Up to Writing is a good program. It sets the foundation.

    • Mary Vine

      September 27, 2011 at 3:46 PM

      Spoken by an awesome teacher. Thanks, Lynn!


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