Writing classes are designed to be interactive and focused. Lessons often begin with the teacher reading aloud a story that demonstrates a particular writing technique. The teacher guides the class in discussing that technique, specifically how it would sound in a piece of writing.
Students share their writing in progress and the group comments on it, giving feedback that is valuable for the writer to improve (and valuable for the student to learn to give). Students familiar with Google Docs (usually 4th or 5th and above) can bring their laptops to class and we type our writing instead of handwriting it.
The goal for most of my students who do not enjoy writing is to build confidence and fluency. In my classes, students learn to find their own “voice.” They learn to sift through their thoughts and find the words that would sound best in a piece of writing. They learn to evaluate their own writing to see what they are proud of and what they are not, and then how to revise to improve their work. Writing is revising, a concept that students should take away from summer classes. I do not teach penmanship or spelling during summer classes.
I often start with the genre of personal narrative, which is writing about one’s own experiences. If students are attending more than one week, we might cover other genres, such as fiction, poetry, script writing, nonfiction, descriptive and persuasive writing. I have also taught prompt writing, which is what students have to do when they are taking a standardized test or other district-level prompts. For middle schoolers, I often teach essay writing, as it is a big part of the curriculum.
Some of our writing is what I call a “quickwrite,” in which one writes fast and furiously for 20-ish minutes, then reads over the writing looking for certain effects that were created by the writing.
Students are generally grouped according to grade level, although if I know a student already, I may be able to place him/her in a different grade level group to match him/her with like-minded peers. Many of my groups span two grade levels, and with highly motivated writers, I can handle an even larger grade span.