So, this year I am using the book, Write Like This, by Kelly Gallagher in my ELA class.
It seems to be geared a bit more toward high school students, but almost all of his suggestions will work (with a bit of modification) for middle school kids, as well.
So far, I am LOVING it! Over the past few years, I've noticed that I've let standardized testing fears guide my writing instruction too much. I've spent too much time focusing on creating great test takers rather than great writers. I made a promise to myself that I won't do this ANYMORE! If I help to create great writers, than they should be able to write anything well... right?!
Gallagher believes in teaching kids through real-world writing. There is lots, and lots, and LOTS of modeling. Last week, I introduced the kids to Gallagher's six writing purposes and we completed his 1 Topic = 18 Topics organizer (btw, this is genius!! It's worth buying the book just for this!). Today, I modeled a quick write in each of the six purposes and tomorrow my students will give it a try. I'm excited to see how they do!! Several of them are extremely resistant to writing, so I know I'll have my work cut out for me.
I'll keep you posted on how they do :)