Linda Christensen & Teaching Writing

In my Language & Learning class we are currently reading Linda Christensen’s book Reading, Writing, and Rising Up. I am loving this book. Christensen’s writing style is so accessible and it really gets me thinking about how I want to approach the teaching of writing in my own future classroom. She brings up many concerns about teaching in a diverse classroom that I hadn’t previously thought about, particularly because I come from a small, rural community that is probably about 98% white. One of my goals as a teacher is to teach students that reading and writing can be fun and teach them how it can be relevant to their lives. I want the work my students do in my classroom to feel important; I want them to always know why we are doing any particular unit, how it relates to their lives. Christensen does a brilliant job of explaining and providing student samples and her own classroom activities to engage learners in her very diverse classroom with oftentimes reluctant students.

One part that I found especially interesting is when she talks about bringing violence into her classroom to allow students an outlet to write about their lives; students are encouraged to share and discuss the factors behind the things that happen in their neighborhoods, good or bad. They discuss social issues, how gender/class/race/sexuality are displayed in the media (even through cartoons), and the issue of “standard” versus “nonstandard” language. They talk about who makes society’s rules and why and how certain groups have been historically excluded. Her students write not only essays, but poems and stories as well. She encourages them to share their work in read-alouds and to go even further – she encourages them to submit their work for publication. She even helps reluctant writers to come out of their shells by showing them that there is no wrong way to write. This is the kind of teacher I want to be. I know I won’t get there overnight, and I know at times it will be incredibly frustrating, but I want my students to walk away with the feelings that Christensen’s students do – they are important, their voices are important, and their writing is another way in which those voices can be heard. Sorry that this post is a little ramble-y, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Christensen’s book and I contemplated all day what I should write about. I figure if it’s been on my mind this much, this book is probably a good topic, and obviously I have a lot to say/write about it! Overall, I think Christensen’s methods provide some really great inclusive ways to teach writing, and I hope I can incorporate even a little of her style and techniques of teaching in my own classroom. So if you haven’t read this book, you should really check it out. 🙂

Here’s a link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Writing-Rising-Up-Teaching/dp/0942961250

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