??? Why Do Writers Write Anyway???

My goal this year was to teach my first graders to see themselves as writers.

(and…readers and mathematicians, and  scientists, geographers, etc….)

But writing is focus for this blog. Nothing brings me more “teacher joy” than for kids to feel empowered.  My struggle as a teacher was to decide on what to teach kids first and exactly what strategies to teach and in what order.  We have state standards and pacing guides but I wanted to know how to get kids to write not only the pieces of writing that we are mandated to teach but to enjoy writing and use writing as a means of communication.

As part of our masters in reading, we have had several courses in writing instruction.  This helped me view writing with my students differently and gave me some tools to build a writing community in my classroom. We have grown over the past seven months and I’ve been able to give my students some quality writing instruction.  I do know that what I’ve given my students could have been stronger.  I’ve learned about resources available as well as techniques to guide my students.

As we started on this journey back in August, the first thing I wanted my students to explore was Why DO Writers Write?

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We have explored tons of books, fiction and non-fiction, different authors and poets, and different genres.  We interact with at least one book and author each day.  My students understand why authors write but I wanted them to carry this knowledge over into their own writing.

Our journey continued with the students learning how they could generate ideas themselves for writing.  We made heart maps and lists and they used these to write personal narratives.  We wrote poetry and tried out several scaffolds for the students to generate ideas and create.

Still I wanted more for my students.  I wanted to see them “improve” on their writing.  They love to write. They can come up with their own ideas.  We have worked up stamina so they are able to write for an extended time.  They love to share and we have created a respectful environment for sharing.

The missing piece seemed to be ME as the teacher.  I needed to help them to be better writers.  From my readings in this class, I’m learning to use mentor texts to direct the students’ attention to the writer’s craft.  How does the writer use his words to convey meaning and can we use their style or strategies to create writing of our own.  Even more important than the direct instruction has been the conferring piece. I feel very comfortable discussing and guiding students in editing their piece of writing.  Looking for punctuation and capital letters, etc. is straight forward and the kids understand their mistakes.  Many of these errors occur with my students because they are so eager to get their thoughts down that mechanics get lost in the first draft.  True revision is harder for me.

My students grew Me as a teacher this week.  My goal was to conference with three or four students each day during workshop.  I made myself some notes and set out to be efficient with my time.  I started each conference by saying, “Tell me what you are working on.”  They told me about their writing and then read the words.  Most students caught words they had omitted and parts of the story that didn’t quite make sense. I asked questions and the students did most of the talking.  As time goes on, I want them to take more ownership of the conferences and use me only as a guide.  The biggest issue most students discovered was that they lacked details to make the stories clearer or more interesting. In each conference I made sure that I complimented each student on something they had done well.  And I mean, I wanted to leave them with something that they could take with them and apply to all their future writing.  Not just a compliment on handwriting, illustrations, or even spelling.  I searched for a compliment about the craft of writing, like adding details, vocabulary choice, or clarity.

This is one student’s book about persuading her mom to buy her Shopkins.

The pictures are not very clear. I’m sorry.

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front cover before

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front cover after

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She wanted to use larger paper and she wanted to experiment with writing on the side of the pages instead of always at the top or bottom.  After our conference, she corrected her spelling and punctuation errors but more importantly she added details to persuade mom to buy her the Shopkins she wanted.  She shared her writing with an eager audience.

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As my journey continues, I want to concentrate on focused lessons and strong conferences.

I want my students to know  Why Writers Write but also How Writers Write.

Let’s Write On…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “??? Why Do Writers Write Anyway???

  1. Susan Davis says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. I agree, we have learned a lot through our Masters classes, and I have learned a lot about myself as a teacher. My next goal, after writing our books, is to do a better job conferencing with my students. It helps to see a snapshot of what you are doing with conferencing and the language that you are using. Looks like your students are doing great things!

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  2. brandireedy says:

    Michelle I enjoy reading your posts each week, and this week was no different. I appreciate that you used different styles of texts to maintain focus and draw attention. It was nice appeal to your post. I also love that you are always so honest in your writing, you do this in such a way that opens the window to your classroom. I see students learning, growing, and a teacher that is also learning and growing. It still blows me away how much we can learn from such young students if we take the time to listen.

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  3. jackiebryanblog says:

    Michelle,
    I enjoyed your post this week. It was exciting! It’s great to see your young writers writing. I loved the way you used your skills about revision and conferencing. What a joy it is to see your students getting excited and involved in book making. “Keep the writing going!”

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  4. bethabuchholz says:

    This line feels so profound: “My writers grew ME as a teacher this week.” Yes! Writing Workshop should be a place and time where children learn from us–but also where we (as teachers) position ourselves to learn from children. Each writer has something to teach us about writing process, writing development, and writing instruction.

    Your big picture view over the last 7+ months offers a glimpse of all that you’ve done to get children genuinely engaged and interested in writing in your classroom–building stamina and writerly identities (which is what many teachers dream of accomplishing)–but now you’re pushing yourself even more to actually move each child forward in some way as a writer each week. You are constantly asking: What does THIS child need as a writer? Your honest reflection that you tend to focus on punctuation and spelling is critical in that it has helped you consider how to go beyond this level of editing. The “before” and “after” shot of the child’s book is such a powerful example of a writer who learned something in a conference that she was able to immediately go put to use in her writing.

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