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Establishing a writing classroom

  • Published on January 11, 2019

ideas for teaching writing in a classroom environment

Establishing a writing classroom

Establishing a writing classroom, one in which children want to write, develop confidence in writing and develop the skills to write with accuracy and clarity, begins from the first day of school.

Characteristics of a writing classroom

Nine characteristics of a writing classroom are:

  • purposeful writing occurs throughout the day in all areas of the curriculum,
  • the process of writing is modelled,
  • children’s writing is scaffolded,
  • children write in response to set tasks,
  • children write about topics and in genres of their own choice,
  • the message is paramount,
  • writing conventions; such as spelling, punctuation and grammar, are learned by writing,
  • children’s writing is celebrated, and
  • children enjoy writing.

If children are provided only with writing tasks and topics set by the teacher, they may view writing simply as a task to perform, something to please the teacher, rather than as a vehicle for self-expression or for sharing imaginative and creative thoughts and stories or information.

Opportunities for writing occur throughout the day and should include:

  • modelled writing,
  • collaborative writing,
  • independent writing.

The writing may be:

  • structured
  • prompted, or
  • self-initiated.

What is modelled writing?

In modelled writing, the teacher demonstrates the process of representing ideas in print or of writing a particular genre. The writing is usually done on the blackboard or whiteboard or a chart.

As the ideas are written, the teacher thinks aloud to explain the process that is occurring. For example, for beginning writers:

Today I am going to write ‘I made a sand castle at the beach.’ I always start at the top left when I write, and I go this way (sweeps hand). ‘I made a sandcastle at the beach I.’ I am important, so when I write ‘I’ meaning me, I always use a capital letter. I need a capital letter to begin the sentence too. I (writes the letter). I made. I need to leave a space before I write the next word, so I use my two fingers to make the space. (demonstrates) Now I write made. (The teacher sounds out the word as each letter is written. The teacher then continues with the rest of the sentence discussing letter, sounds and spelling as appropriate for the children. At the end of the sentence, the teacher explains the need for a full stop.)

Modelled writing can occur across the curriculum. Teachers may model how to write a diary entry, a poem, a science report, a recount or a narrative. Modelling is the best way to introduce students to a new genre once they are familiar with its structure from exposure through reading or listening to it being read.

What is collaborative writing?

Collaborative writing occurs when students and teacher work together to create a text. The collaboration may involve students in contributing ideas that the teacher then writes, or it may involve students in writing also.

Collaborative writing may follow or integrate with modelled writing, and either or both may precede independent writing.

What is independent writing?

Independent writing involves children in constructing their own texts. It may be in response to a set task or on a topic and in a genre of choice. It may follow modelled or collaborative writing and be prompted by discussion or be self-initiated.

Although independent, the writing process may be supported and scaffolded by the teacher with questions about content and conventions. Feedback appropriate to each child’s stage of development is crucial for progress to be made. Feedback about content always precedes feedback about conventions. Children should receive the necessary support to review, edit and proofread their own work according to their stage of development.

What is structured writing?

Structured writing requires that children write to meet a set structure, be it sentence or genre.

Beginning writers may be provided with sentence beginnings and asked to complete them; for example:

  • I like
  • I can
  • I am
  • My favourite x is
  • On the weekend.

Later, children may write poems, recounts, letters, stories, non-fiction and other texts according to their structure.

What is prompted writing?

Prompted writing is any writing that is set by the teacher or follows the presentation of a stimulus or discussion. Although children may have the opportunity to respond in personal, creative or other ways of their choosing, it is writing done in response to a teacher’s request.

What is self-initiated writing?

Self-initiated writing is any writing that children do from their own volition. You can provide opportunities for children to initiate writing during free-choice times by:

  • Setting up a writing corner stocked with a variety of paper and writing implements, staplers, magazines for illustrations, or folders of clip art. Here students may write journals, stories, recounts, songs, poems; in fact, anything they wish.
  • Providing a classroom mailbox to encourage children to write letters for each other and the teacher.
  • Encouraging children to write in accompaniment to their play activities; for example, menus and recipes in the cooking corner, lists of favourite books in the reading corner, procedures and instructions in the construction corner.
  • Providing access to computers and tablets with writing software or apps.
  • Providing other times for children to write about topics and in genres of their choice.

How does readilearn assist teachers to establish a writing classroom?

There are more than fifty teaching resources related to writing in readilearn literacy resources. Some are designed specifically to teach writing; some include opportunities for children to write responses in other lessons; and others children may reference when writing; for example, word wall cards. Below are links to a selection. Browse the writing category for more.

suggestions for teaching writing in the lower primary years

A good place to start is Let’s get them writing — Five suggestions for teaching writing in the early years, a resource that contains an overview of five strategies for teaching writing.

Modelled writing

About me modelled writing

About me – Modelled writing

The teacher models for the children how to complete their About me booklets.

Modelled collaborative writing

class news - transforming show and tell into a reading and writing experience

Class news — Transforming Show and Tell into a writing and reading experience

The teacher models and encourages the contribution of children in writing the experiences described by individual children.

Collaborative structured writing

teaching writing with animal rhymes

Animal Rhyme Time

Children suggest words that rhyme with an animal; for example, cat. Teachers and students collaboratively use the rhyming words in a sentence. Children write their own rhyming sentences.

writing Christmas poems

Christmas poems

Children are presented with examples of poetic forms. Together with the teacher, children collaborate to write class poems on the templates provided. Then children write their own poems using the printable templates.

Prompted independent writing

A sheet for children to write the next chapter as follow up to reading Bullfrog's Billabong

Bullfrog’s Billabong – the next chapter

Children write what they think may happen next if the Bullfrog’s Billabong story was to continue.

friendship superheroes gives children the opportunity of writing about actions they take that make them good friends

Friendship Superheroes

Following discussion of friendly behaviours, children write ways in which they are friendship superheroes.

writing observations of caterpillars in the classroom

Butterfly diary

Children record their observations of caterpillars kept in the classroom for a minibeast unit.

Teaching writing in lower primary classroom using Humpty Dumpty as stimulus

Humpty Dumpty — a story in five sittings

In response to discussion, children write a story to explain how Humpty Dumpty came to fall.

suggestions for teaching writing in the lower primary years

Diary writing — refer to Let’s get them writing — Five suggestions for teaching writing in the early years.

http://readilearn.com.au/product/mouse-crow-stimulus-writing/

Mouse and Crow — a stimulus for writing

A series of images encourages children to think about friendship, who can be a friend and what friends do. Children are encouraged to write their own stories in response to the stimulus.

Structured writing

Busy Bee I am ... first day of school worksheet

Busy Bee I am … first day of school worksheet

Children complete the information on their sheet.

I can caption book

I can caption book

Children use the sentence beginning ‘I can’ to write a caption book of their own.

on the farm who am I cover

On the farm Who am I?

Children are presented with a series of Who am I? puzzles. Children can use the structure to write their own Who am I? puzzles.

introducing new resources on readilearn

Little Miss Muffet themed lessons for reading and writing

Let’s read and write with Little Miss Muffet

Children make substitutions to the nursery rhyme to write a collaborative or independent story based on the structure.

Join the readilearn community

These are just a few of the readilearn resources designed to support the teaching of writing in the first three years of school. Be sure to check out all writing resources here. Some of the resources are available free. Simply register to start using. All are available to subscribers for one small annual payment (less than 50 cents a week!).

Have a wonderful year teaching. Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to add to the collection.

Register now to begin using free resources, or Subscribe for access to all readilearn resources, assisting teachers of children in their first three years of school.

gift subscription to early childhood teaching resources for the first three years of school

A readilearn subscription also makes a special gift to early childhood teachers starting out in their first year of teaching. Contact me for details.

readilearn: teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
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Whimsy Clips by Laura Strickland

Note: Clip art in the header is used courtesy of Whimsy Clips and was purchased in this Writing Kids Clip Art set.


Comments

    Hi Norah,

    Great post. This is a topic that I have been learning a lot about recently as we prepare to implement Columbia’s Teachers College Reading Writing Project. Their key ideas are mirrored in this blog post. Though it isn’t specific to TCRWP, I’ve been learning about writing workshops and improving the writers (not just the writing) through one-to-one, personalised conferences. The programme also talks a lot about the teachers being readers and writers – very important to model the writing process.

    Thanks for helping me to solidify these ideas.

    Regards,

    Adam

    Hi Adam,

    Thank you for affirming the benefits of the suggestions in the post. I love writing and love teaching children to write. I believe children love writing when they have a sense of ownership and purpose for what they write. Writing loses its appeal when it is required in formats and on topics that have little interest or relevance to them and for which there is no real audience.

    I’m pleased to hear there is an emphasis on teachers modelling the reading and writing processes by being readers and writers themselves. How can we expect students to believe that reading and writing are important if we don’t model and share their importance to us?

    I look forward to hearing more about the progress and ultimate success of your project.

    Best wishes,
    Norah

    I think that explains why I like literary art so passionately because it’s about people gathering to express thoughts and ideas. It does give us purpose. If children can learn its value in the classroom, they can better learn. It seems like the last thing that should be forgotten.

    It is the last thing that should be forgotten. Sadly, I think many teachers don’t engage in writing themselves – other than writing report cards which they find a chore. It must be difficult to teach the process of writing if you don’t engage it yourself. I love the work that you do to promote writing and make literary art accessible to all.

    Charli, you are! We are always learning as we write; and we professional writers consistently write in a variety of genres and for a variety of purposes, including responding to prompts as well as self-initiated work. I think it is important to engage children, most of all, in writing that is meaningful to them and has purpose. There is no more meaningful purpose than the expression of one’s own thoughts and ideas. Too often it is forgotten in the classroom.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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