Wendy Sheets is a contributing author to Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework.
Oh, the joy of writing! Whether you’re an administrator or a teacher focused on student learning, wouldn’t you love to hear that sentiment expressed by learners in classrooms throughout your school? But what is involved in making that happen? In order to grow as writers and improve across achievement measures, students need to live as writers. Within a Writing Workshop, a writerly community may provide just the context for that to happen in classrooms in several ways.
Daily Opportunities to Write
In order to build momentum, writers need daily opportunities to work on meaningful pieces of writing. When writing is done intermittently, focus and passion for a piece is lost. Writers should ponder their stories even when they’re not in school. Within the Writers’ Workshop, they have daily opportunities to write, making the most of their writer’s notebooks as well as the pieces they take through the writing process.
Writers glean creative ideas from many resources: life experiences, conversations, explicit instruction, and from other texts. When writers notice quality writing that others have produced, they are able to stand on the shoulders of those mentors to try out the craft in their own pieces. The classroom library should offer many, many options for a variety of texts so that writers may develop flexibility in coming to know their mentors. This should include multiple quality examples of genres, authors, and text structures and forms. Reading mentors with a noticing eye will benefit writers tremendously!
A Toolbox of Options
Writers need to continuously add to their repertoire of options for improving their writing. A gardener doesn’t expect to reap a harvest without the right tools to do the work of gardening. Likewise, writing doesn’t show much improvement without adding new possibilities to the repertoire to strengthen the process. Daily mini-lessons provide explicit strategies for writers to extend their learning about craft and conventions. When sharing a principle about what writers do, Interactive Read Alouds that have already been enjoyed and discussed are used as mentor texts to demonstrate the author’s craft. The decisions writers make are in service of communicating a message. Therefore, when trying out new strategies, it is intended to better convey a message. Craft mini-lessons related to organization, idea development, language use, word choice, and voice will make writing better and more interesting. Mini-lessons on conventions are also shared so writers may learn to effectively express their ideas in a way others may understand. With every mini-lesson shared, writers try out the learning within their own pieces of writing, and add to their collection of tools to employ with future writing as well.
Conferring to Have Thinking Lifted
Writing conferences are ideal for coming alongside a writer – not to fix the piece, but to lift the thinking of the writer in a generative way. During this writer-to-writer conversation, writer’s development is supported by responding to needs related mostly to craft (but also conventions). A focus on one or two ideas ensures they may be tried out in meaningful ways. A teacher may confer with a writer at any point during the writing process, and this differentiated work supports each individual in a positive way to lift their thinking.
For writing to be meaningful and for writers to be invested, they must be offered as many opportunities for choice as possible. Writers have many choices to make: topics for writing, the genre that best communicates their message, the purpose and audience for which they write, the research they conduct, the structure of their piece, the details they include, the paper, illustrations, graphics, or text features they include, whether they handwrite or type, whether they publish, and how a published piece may look and be shared. Teachers have the choice to position learners as writers who have agency with the meaningful decisions they make…what a gift that all learners deserve!
A Writerly Community
Writers flourish within a productive, writerly community. Within a community of writers, students are invested in their work and may be found sharing their pieces with one another often. While coming together in a circle for mini-lessons and share time, everyone is able to see one each other and every voice is honored. Writing is seen as important work, and children are elevated as writers who are making important decisions. Learning doesn’t simply come from the teacher; everyone contributes to the meaning-making as writing is shared and discussed. Within a writerly community, all of the above elements are included and contribute to the purposeful, respectful, constructivist learning environment where writers may grow. Oh, the joy of writing!
Let’s Rethink Second Grade: My Teaching and Coaching Experience with this Transitional Year by Shelly Schaub, contributing author, Responsive Literacy.
The Writer's Journey by Jenny McFerin, contributing author, Responsive Literacy.
For the Love of Guided Reading by Nikki Woodruff, contributing author, Responsive Literacy.
Interactive Read-Aloud: The Bedrock of the Literacy Block by Lisa Pinkerton, contributing author, Responsive Literacy.
Photos via Scholastic