As a teacher I have a fundamental goal of teaching writers that will some day teach writers. I try to do this by modeling what it means to write and making my process as open as possible.  I believed this when I taught in 6th grade and I believe it now at the college level.

That belief is not the only thing that does not change.

My students (I teach all writing intensive classes) still struggle with writing leads (or as I found out on Twitter last night ledes….for the journalism folks). They will also have to teach young writers on how to start a paper.

Library of Mini-Lessons

I decided to continue my mutlimodal writing mini-lesson series. We discussed on #engchat class night how we should work together to create library of mini-lessons that students would use in a blended environment.

Writing Leads 

Here is my next mini-lesson.

I tried to accomplish a few goals.

  • First I explicitly defined what goes into a good lead/lede. I settled on restating the problem and drawing in the audience.
  • I then looked at mentor texts. I selected examples from Medium. When I was taking screenshots I wished I would have written down author information so I could propoerly cite. Discovery on Medium is not great yet.
  • I then created a sock puppet mini-lesson to discuss the lesson (tutorial post coming in next few days).

Here is what is missing.

  • More guided practice. I have not figured out how to include this well in my mini-lesson. I am thinking I would need to to screencast the re-writing of a lede and then have students complete a Google Form or Doc on the re-written lead. They would then need to share and discuss their writing.
  • More indepenent practice. This would hopefully translate into student writing.

Writing Leads for Your Audience

Audience matters. At the secondary level you should know the discourse practices of your field. For example I looked at the last five issues of The Reading Teacher and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy almost all of the articles start with a vignette.

When I compared that result to research journals only about  half the articles started with a vignette. In more technical journals authors often just state the problem. In research journals the first sentence and the first citation seem to carry more weight.


The best writing festers. A small idea takes hold somewhere in my world and begins to gnaw at my time. Then the scheme and design of my  thinking spreads into my  other daily needs. Normal routine gets enveloped by the desire  to write. As if  good ideas replicate like a virus. Once infected I cannot move on until I get these observations and thoughts out.

Getting those thoughts out in a manner others can, and want to, understand gets tricky.

My ideas for writing end up scattered on post it notes, files, docs, napkins etc. I often say I do my best writing when hiking or when I pace back in forth in my office.  Basically for me the writing process gets messy.

Recent postmortum on my writing notes. CC 3.0
Recent postmortum on my writing notes. CC 3.0

I have written in the past that my pre-writing process involves more papers than pixel. I have to sit down with a pen to plan my writing.

How I plan changes based on my medium. CC 3.0
How I plan changes based on my medium. CC 3.0


So I have set a new goal for the next month or so that I hope translates into my normal writing process. I want to  keep ideas in draft form, a writer’s notebook in essence baked into WordPress.

This should add an extra step, or at least allow me to focus on the most important in writing, drafting. I will also hopefully spend more time on the most critical phase of the writing process revising. Finally staying in draft form for longer should allow me to spend some time editing. This we know is often the last, and most important step, before publishing.

In other words if I add this intermittent step I may just use my pre-writing to focus on the single  most important step in writing: drafting, revising, and editing.

List of current posts in drafts. CC 3.0
List of current posts in drafts. CC 3.0

I have made improving my blog a personal and professional goal. I want to document my thinking about education while making the  writing process transparent  in the open.

By drafting before I publish I hope to let ideas fester. Some topics may fizzle others may flourish. Once I have a list of drafts I can work from the writing I already started. Finally I will  publish the pieces that matter…or get finished.

It is usually the same thing.