Writing is my primary focus each year. I have a very specific way that I teach my students to write that blends what has been covered in sixth grade and what will be covered in eighth grade and, ultimately, high school. For the first half of the year, we will be using my iTemplate. This program contains my exact format and is a repository for all my handouts relating to writing. That means a lot of time in the computer lab, but it's also a clear way to outline expectations and foster better writing.
Early in my teaching career, I did far more grading at the beginning of the year. I've learned that feedback is far more effective than a grade and some comments, especially for students who are still mastering form. The grades and comments ended up being more for me, as my students often ignored everything after the grade. As a result, I now spend much of the first and second quarters teaching students to write paragraphs and essays. During this process, all students will receive feedback both from me and their peers. This occurs both in class and after school. After students master the form, I will assess with a more traditionally graded paper. This becomes a true assessment because the instruction has preceded the actual graded effort. When students get back their papers, there will be mandatory conferences in class to discuss the positives and negatives of each student's performance. I will then assign each student two writing goals that will be rewarded (upon successful completion) with extra credit on the next assignment. It is strongly suggested that students see me as much as possible after school to work towards achieving these personalized goals.
A note on extra help/conferring:
Working with me one-on-one is like free tutoring. I teach the class and know exactly what has been covered, and I can help you achieve your full potential. In reality, this takes much effort. Fortunately, it will all be worth it for both parties when brilliant writing flows effortlessly from you.
Step #1: Make an appointment with me after class.
Step#2: Show up on time and work with me as long as it takes.
Step#3: Come back and show me what you have done after our conference.
Step#4: Get ready to do steps 1-3 all over gain.
Writing takes time. I have it. You must make it (that rhyme is bad).