Penny Kittle

A Theory on Teaching Writing

I can’t tell when, where or how old I was when I said my first words. According to my mother, the first word that I ever said to my father and her was “mom;” a popular first word for a lot of toddlers. At such a young age, my communication skills were very limited, but the fact is that I was able to recognize what the word “mom” meant and give it meaning of my own. My first word experience, along with all other toddlers who communicate for the first is an example of the significant importance of human language.

A-kid-drawing-or-writingLanguage is a big deal.

From the moment we are first brought into the world until the final days of our life, human beings have a need to communicate with others. Whether it is through sign language, oral communication, letters, texting, e-mail, etc., communication is a large part of who we are as people, how we communicate our needs and thoughts, and how we are to be accepted among others. Language is as necessary for the individual to live a long healthy and happy life, as is food, water or shelter. As proven by toddlers all over the globe from babbling sentences to drawing pictures and making marks on the walls of your home, language is a large part of what makes us different from all other living creatures.

If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at what life would be without the ability to communicate.

We have all been in confrontation situations where one person is angry or upset with the other (*cough* the male in the relationship does something wrong, just one example). In intimate relationships, the need to communicate with each other is a huge element to a successful marriage or partnership as it is will all other relationships. If you can’t talk to the person your upset with, there is no solution to be found.


Yes, this is what usually happens.

What if you wanted to write your girlfriend a love note to express you deepest thoughts and feelings? Or write your husband a quick note to remind him to do the dishes because he always seems to forget that they are sitting in the sink? Or (for the men) your wife or girlfriend takes too long to get ready for a dinner party; how are you going to tell her that she needs to hurry up (tread carefully)?

The point that I want to address first as part of my theory of teaching writing is the importance of communicating and language in a person’s life. Long story short, you can’t live without the ability to communicate. In order to communicate, you need some form of language!

Language can be expressed in many different ways, the two main ways being written and spoken. Anyone that knows me personally can tell you that I love to talk, not only for their own amusement, but I like to share my stories and experiences with others. My writing is a bit different. Sometimes I write to escape and get away from a bad experience, other times I document my feelings and emotions in my writing so that I can deal with difficult situations in a positive way. Writing itself serves different purposes for everyone.

photo(2)In the elementary classroom that I hope to one day be teaching in, writing serves a different purpose for those groups of children than it would for me. The purposes of writing can range from when you are first learning how to form letters in Kindergarten to writing a response to a book that you read in 5th grade; it all varies on the age or development level of your students. However, despite some of the age differences between kindergarten and 5th grade, I believe that I can still show my students the values of written language and how it is necessary for them to become not only better students, but to become good people once their educational journey has ended.

Here are my views:

Writing is a way of thinking. When you write, you are reflecting your own views and beliefs.

Ranging from what my students have learned from their parents to what they are learning on the playground and from me, they will reflect their own beliefs and thoughts in the way that they write.

Writing is personalized.

Every writer is different. Every student is unique in their own ways based on what they think and how they choose to express their individuality. A piece of writing is very much personalized to the author who wrote it.

Writing helps to create who we are as people, even if we are still growing and developing.

I think I will always be a little immature when it comes to certain things. BUT, as a future teacher I do have to acknowledge that my students rely on me to guide them on their journey to becoming an adult, even if it is only for a year. Focusing on every student in my class and how they write will only benefit them in the long run. Writing challenges the individual to rethink, regroup and organize their thoughts in such a way that it makes sense to their audience. When I write an issue that brings to account my personal beliefs and morals, I question myself and what I hold to be true. I expect my students to go through a similar experience that questions who they are as people and what they truly are thinking.

Writing allows room for self-expression.

Because writing is personalized and sometimes brings one’s morals and beliefs into the picture, writing can be a place where a student can express who they are. Both the paper and pen have the power to help students express themselves in a safe, non-judgmental environment away from the world.

Writing, a way of understanding.

Reading and writing work as a pair. What you read, say or write allows you to gain a better understanding of who you are, what you believe, and what you think of the world. Sometimes writing in your personal journal or even taking notes from a class lecture reinforces understanding.


“Becca, how can we create such a passion within or students? How do we teach them the values of writing? How do we motivate them?”

What a great question! After reading Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them (I highly recommend), I found that I loved almost all of her ideas on how to motive students to love writing.

photo(1)Here is a few tips on what I believe can inspire students to read and write and actually love doing it. These ideas were all inspired from Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them.

  • Give your students FREEDOM. Give them CHOICES and TRUST them! For too long we have been assigning research papers and book reports, and we expect students to become better writers after writing about topics that they honestly don’t care about. Just let them write.
  • I do understand that grammar is important, but avoid over correcting them too. Kittle does a nice job explaining the damages of over correcting drafts in her book.
  • Give students a variety; let them write poems or essays or short stories.
  • Give them time!
  • Give feedback and allow them to edit/revise their own work. Show them how that can make their pieces better, then trust them to do it.
  • Writing workshop, need I say more?
  • Communicate with your students; ask them questions about their writing. Point out both strengths and weaknesses of their piece.

More than often do we not give our students enough credit for their own intelligence. Even at the younger grade levels.

Don't underestimate your students!

Don’t underestimate your students!



A Burning Desire; Encouraging Students to KEEP READING. Inspired by Penny Kittle’s, Book Love

When I was in high school, I was the one that did my best to read all of the assigned texts, and participate in all of the class discussions. I was considered one of the best Literature students in my class, and I was able to read a variety of books that truly changed the way I view the world. I was glad that I read some of the required texts in high school.

There were also books that I chose not to read. Books that made me sick, and gave me headaches. Sadly, most of them were classics that I still do not have the courage to attempt to read the book again 3 years later. Penny Kittle's "Book Love"

While reading Chapters 1 and 2 in Penny Kittle’s Book Love, I built a small time machine, and traveled back to when I was a freshman in high school. I remember the smell of the gym, the carvings on the desk, the science experiment that went horrible wrong, and reading the dreaded Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. I liked the play at first, but after spending weeks on this single play, the only thing I really can remember taking from it was that love can sometimes be a little ridiculous.

I came back to reality, after my time machine adventure to freshman year in high school, and I related my experiences with what Kittle was talking about in the first two chapters of her book. It should not be a surprise to both middle school and high school teachers that students are not reading what they are supposed too.


Quote from Penny Kittle

Throughout these two chapters, Kittle does a wonderful job stating some of the reasons why students are choosing not to read.

  • Students are reading at lower or higher grade levels than they should be.
  • Students are not reading texts that are relatable to them .
  • Reading serves no purpose to many students because that can not relate to the text.
  • Students don’t know what books to look to keep them engaged in reading (lack of a favorite genre).

The list goes on and on.

One thing that really stuck with me when I was reading Book Love was how Kittle believes that balance is a necessity in order to create life long readers. Kittle points out that we need to challenge our young readers, but at the same time we need to keep a balance of what they like, and what we need to teach as part of the curriculum.

Quote from Penny Kittle in "Book Love"

Students need to know that classics are not the only genres that high school English classes focus on. There needs to be variety, and along with variety, there needs to be choice. Students don’t want to be me, my freshman year, constantly talking about Romeo and Juliet. Every high school in the nation seems to want to teach that play. Okay, teach the play, and have a discussion with your students. But after a week or two, move on. And don’t teach the same play, to a different freshman class, every year.

Shakespeare wrote so many different things; give him some credit.

The goal should not be to teach as many classics or difficult texts as you can possible teach. I really liked most of the classics I read in high school; but other member of my class did not feel the same way. The goal for teachers that are passionate about reading (which, really should be every teacher in the world to some degree) is to develop life long readers, who have this burning desire to learn more, and to read more. Kittle points this out in these two chapters constantly, and I have to say that I agree 100%.