BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
FARMINGTON – Most have already spent a long day in the classroom by the time they arrive for four more hours of instruction.
But where before they were the teachers, now they are the students.
Likewise, their teacher is changing roles for the evening class.
While the largest chunk of his day was spent fulfilling his duties as superintendent of Davis School District, Bryan Bowles will wear a different hat as he teaches writing to his teacher/students.
The gathering has taken place once a week since September, and will continue for 11 classes.
It is a class focused on writing and on teaching writing, a class that will allow teachers to earn credit toward a reading endorsement.
For some, that will result in a “lane” increase and a higher salary.
For all in attendance, it will mean more opportunities to help students excel or learn more ideas to benefit their existing classes.
Kate Hall is a reading coach at Windridge and Columbia elementary schools.
“The information he presents is fantastic,” said Hall, “especially with the writing emphasis in Common Core. He’s phenomenal. There’s standing room only to get into his classes.”
Kristin van Brunt teaches English at Viewmont High.
Attending the class, she said, has helped her learn what is being taught in younger grades, see what works and better gauge the progress of her students.
“It is something they will use no matter what they do in life,” said van Brunt of writing. “They need to write. It’s crucial to the thinking process.”
Writing, as taught by Bowles, isn’t tedious or even predictable.
In a recent class, the first assignment was to write the words for the voice balloons in a Snoopy comic strip. And to make things even more interesting, the story line had to have something to do with the Civil War.
Bowles then used a technique that got every student involved Р not only in writing but in thinking and then sharing and discussing what they’d discovered.
“Use writing as a tool to help (students) understand the concepts being taught,” said Bowles. “They need to think, then write it down. It’s higher order thinking skills and it soldifies what they’re learning.”
Writing can help identify gaps in your understanding, Bowles told his students. In order to write, students will need to take what they know and ask themselves, “What else do I need to know?”
It’s something that can’t be copied from a neighbor’s paper, he said, because writing is individual.
“If they can write about it then they’re not just memorizing it,” he said.
One of the district’s goals is to have all kids perform at higher levels, Bowles told teachers.
“Aren’t you always surprised that when you have high expectations, how they rise to high levels?” he said. “We’re preparing students for a world we don’t even yet know. If they read well and can acquire information and think about it, they can receive additional information.”
Bowles said every written paper doesn’t need to be graded by teachers since it is the process of writing, not necessarily the product, that is vital.
Teachers can become a “bottle neck” to student learning if they try and grade every single piece of writing, said Bowles.
“Your thinking develops as you continue to write,” he said, a technique known as “writing to learn.”
Bowles is in his third year teaching the writing class, and this semester’s group includes 32 students.
One of the things he enjoys most about the class, he said, is the chance to get to know more teachers in the district.
A big part of the class is when teachers take an action research project to their classrooms, trying new writing techniques with students and comparing them with a control group.
“We share with each other the results of the research,” said Bowles. “We’re helping kids think deeper and learn more. It’s an incredible experience. I love to do it.”