You Can Teach Writing

The secret to teaching writing  is free. Take it.

When I began teaching writing, I wasn't a certified English teacher. Forty-plus years later, I'm still not a certified English teacher, but a long line of students learned to write in my classes.

You don't need credentials from a government agency to help teenage and adult students learn to write. Whether you teach in a public school, a private school, or home school, you can teach writing.


I'm living proof.

I'm Linda Aragoni, your host at YCTWriting.com.

Linda Aragoni photo
Linda Aragoni

After getting a degree in psychology, I went to graduate school. Back then, going to school was the only thing I knew I could do well.

Desperate for freshman composition teachers, the English department offered me a teaching assistantship. I grabbed it. 

Within a few days, I learned what doesn't work in teaching writing.

Learning the secret to what does work took a while longer.

It's no secret that teachers do things that don't work.

First, few teachers actually teach writing.

Researchers report that teachers teach about writing but they don't teach students to do writing. Aiming for variety in writing assignments, they prevent deliberate practice.

Second, few teachers are equipped to teach writing.

When asked how well they were prepared to teach writing, most American teachers say they were poorly prepared. Some say they were totally unprepared. Perhaps you are one of them. 

We all know what doesn't work in teaching writing.

Historically, only either passionate or masochistic individuals have attempted to teach writing to all the teens and adults who come through their classes. Their experiences show what doesn't work.

Students won't learn to write because you:

  • give brilliant lectures about writing
  • have students read high quality literature
  • make them revise each paper at least twice
  • devote a month to remedial grammar study
  • detail in rubrics what quality writing is.

Stick with me and I'll show you the secret that will let you succeed as a writing teacher even if you don't have either passion for expository writing or a personality disorder.

The secret to teaching writing has eluded even experienced classroom teachers.

Most visitors to this website are experienced teachers with 15 or more years — sometimes many more years — in the classroom.

They say they have found some activities and assignments that accomplish part of what they want to do, but often those found materials fit too few writing situations, too few students, too few curricula.

What those experienced teacher tell me they want is one way of teaching students to think through a writing project so students by themselves can adapt to the demands of the particular assignment.

Do you want that, too? You've come to the right place.

The secret to teaching writing: strategies.

Most expository writers write poorly because they haven't learned to write strategically.

Most teachers, if the actually try to teach writing, teach it poorly because they don't teach strategically.

I've divided what you need to know as a writing teacher into two big categories:

  1. instructional strategies for your use
  2. writing strategies for your students' use.

I'll help you master both strategy types.

The place to start is instructional strategies, labeled Start Here on the navigation bar at the top of the page.

Instructional strategies help you focus.


Instructional strategies will help you master my secret plan — which I'll give you — for teaching writing in courses in which writing isn't all you have to teach.

To make things easier for you, I've already separated what is essential to teach about writing from what is not essential for students to know before they write or as they write.

Person starts uphill walk toward goal of teaching writing.
Strategies lay path to goal.

Writing strategies let you teach.


The writing strategies thread gives you eight writing strategies that put the complete writing process in eight sentences. Those eight sentences — 32 words — are all you need to teach teens or adult students.

With practice, you'll find my strategic  process is efficient, effective, and flexible for both you and your students.

Here's where the writing strategies begin.

Teaching writing requires writing strategies as scaffolds..
Writing strategies act as scaffolds for your students.

Not sure my method is right for you?


As important as turning out competent writers is, it probably isn't your only goal. You almost surely have other goals related to such things as reading, listening, speaking, appreciating literature, and working collaboratively.

Those other goals may matter a lot more to you than teaching expository writing. I get that.

target is hit by three arrows representing multiple aims of writing teachers.

I'll help you use writing to teach what matters to you.

bricks reinforced with mortar is metaphor for how writing reinforces learning

Writing reinforces learning. Expository writing will help students be better learners. Having to write forces them to dig more deeply into course content than do selected-answers tests. Writing will also help students become better readers as they learn ways professional writers commonly structure their work.

Writing improves students thinking abilities.

Writing teaches thinking. Because the strategic writing process stresses defining a problem and planning how to go about solving it, students learn more than just how to write informative nonfiction. They master a generic approach to solving problems which they can use in other classes and in workplace settings.

clock represents time saved by using writing as a teaching tool

Writing saves you time. Short pieces of informal writing show you quickly what students have or have not learned and, more importantly, what they misunderstood. When you use your course topics for formal writing prompts, every hour of writing practice will be an hour spent learning your other, non-writing, course content.

Set your mind to the task.

Little memorization is needed for yctwriting's method of teaching writing taught at
There's little to memorize here.

There's not much information you have to commit to memory before you can use my system. You will, however, find having the right mindset before you start is very helpful.

I suggest you make up your mind that you will:

  • Do far less (almost no) lecturing.
  • Turn writing into a learning tool.
  • Accept being bored by novices' writing.
  • Be content if no student writes brilliantly as long as every student writes competently.

Don't expect quick results.

No matter how well you're prepared for teaching writing, it always take a frustratingly long time to bring students to the competence level at which they can write with minimal help from you.

I'll crack a few jokes along the way to keep our spirits up as we do the heavy lifting.

Still have questions?

The FAQs page, accessible from the navigation bar, has succinct answers to frequently asked questions about the strategic method I teach. From the FAQs page (and from the footer of other pages), you can access a glossary that gives answers to questions about what writing terms mean.

The Contact page tells you where to connect with me on social media as well as how to reach me for private conversations.  There's a contact form for our mutual convenience.

The About page tells you a bit more about my teaching and extracurricular experience as a writer, editor, and website operator. You can also access the site's privacy policy and sitemap from there, as well as from the footer on most pages.

Content on this page was first posted at you-can-teach-writing.com on 2008-02-06 and updated 2011-12-28 by Linda Aragoni. She posted this version to yctwriting.com on 2018-01-01. 

Visitor comment about Linda's method of teaching writing.

I did use your materials—and did so most enthusiastically—last semester at Indiana University Southeast. I retired at the end of the fall semester after 20 years at IUS and after 60 years of teaching.

Your material, particularly the instructions for students to work in pairs and help each other to firm their "proofs" [Talk It Out], was probably the single most helpful program I have ever received. I loved it.

My students suddenly knew what I was talking about! After all these years of teaching, Linda!

From then on the semester was clear sailing.

I also loved your attention to Bloom’s Taxonomy. I did often refer to Bloom’s T. in class this past semester, and I saw that it made a difference to students to be able to piece together the puzzle of this “whole education” thing. They seemed suddenly to realize the journey they were on and how it related to their goals and to their whole human being-ness.

Thank you so much, Linda. You have made the end of my teaching life everything I strove for from the first. It was like: "Now I get it!" ~ Marilyn Jones

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