This is my first post. I feel a bit awkward throwing out a "discussion" e-mail into a seemingly empty list (so far), but here it goes...because it's required for my graduate credits!
Considering the grade level and ability level of the students I teach, I would expect their writing to be widely varied at the start of the school year...for various reasons. Past academic instruction and experience will show up in the variety of student pieces. Student work will fall on a continuiim between very concrete, simple thought processes to more abstract, complex ideas. Age, not only past instruction and experience, will account for where one falls on this continuiim as well. In addition, I would expect various degrees of motivation and enthusiasm (or lack thereof) among the students. Past academic experience (success or failure), home environment/nurture, personality, etc. accounts for a variety of levels of motivation to write.
Some students will come to me without the ability to think or express themselves (orally or in writing). Many traditional English classrooms still emphasize learning content/processes to produce product or pass tests. Facilitating discussion, thought, ideas sharing, conversation as prerequisite to writing does not always happen.
By the end of their time with me, I want to see a significant and steady improvement in the complexity of their ideas and ability to express these ideas. Talking, sharing, bouncing ideas around and off of each other, stretching--each of these coincide with writing--often preceding it.
I feel the most important thing I can do to help students move forward as writers is to help students move forward as thinkers and expressors. I must build a writing community that supports and encourages the free flow of ideas.