How To Have Children Writing Independent ‘Assessable’ Pieces Every Day.

The political hot-potato in terms of writing at the moment is independent writing. We have decided the tackle this subject head on by producing a mini-series of blog posts about how we have managed to create a writing community within our classroom which allows children to write independently every day.

We will cover all sorts of strategies we use to allow children to write high-quality assessed pieces independently. Some of them we have already discussed and you can find them here:

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GUEST BLOG: I think…that all teachers should do this so they can learn new stuff like us by Kat Vallely

 

Kat Vallely is a practitioner in Primary Teacher Education at the University of Greenwich

A classroom project creating a community of writers where the teacher writes alongside the children to foster writing as a meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable activity.

If nurtured and encouraged in a supportive way, writing can propel children to a world where they are able to explore, problem solve, express themselves and make sense of their lives.  However, the act of writing itself often evokes confusion and frustration and requires time, space, and a particular relationship between the teacher and the young writer.  Sadly, this relationship is often compromised as we find ourselves caught in an education system where excessive, extrinsic motivation and pressure to perform has the potential to drown a child’s intrinsic desire to write (Cremin et al. 2017).

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GUEST BLOG: Am I A Teacher-Writer? By Sadie Phillips

This is a guest blog by Sadie Phillips. You can read more by visiting her blog here.

If reading is the key to learning, then writing is the lock.

Or rather, writing is the medium through which we unlock potential and empower children (and adults). We still depend on writing as the largest indicator of success and progress in learning. Therefore, it should have just as much emphasis as reading in school. For example, if we are Reading for Pleasure daily, should we not also be Writing for Pleasure daily too? If we are explicitly teaching children how to read, are we explicitly modelling the writing process to them too?

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Writing For Pleasure: Setting Writing Goals

Chart

According to research, Writing For Pleasure teachers will scaffold new writing projects by setting both process and product oriented writing goals. This happens in a mastery based writing environment which has an atmosphere of inquiry, investigation and experimentation at its heart.

A little note about terminology here before we begin:

  • Distant Writing Goals – often the end goal of a writing project. The final writing ‘product’. The purpose and audience for the writing is revealed, considered and discussed at this point.
  • Product Writing Goals – often writers will talk about their finished writing being their ‘product’. The thing that is created. Product writing goals then are the intentions we have for the writing. What will we have to do to make this an effective product…? This is very different to success criteria which don’t always attend to the intentions for the writing nor are they always authentically generated alongside the children.
  • Process Writing Goals – these are goals we often set ourselves as writers. We will often give ourselves mini-deadlines. Rarely do we take on a large project in one go. Rather, we take it a step at a time. For example, ‘We need to try and finish this draft in the next couple of days’. This doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t do two processes at the same time sometimes. For example, some of us, as ‘paragraph pilers,’ will often write a paragraph, read it through, maybe revise it a bit, maybe even proof-read it a little before moving onto our next paragraph. This doesn’t mean we won’t also put time aside to revise and edit it explicitly at a later stage.

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“All Children Can Write”: A Tribute To Donald Graves

Donald Graves: 1930 – 2010

The following article by Donald Graves (written in 1985), considered by many to be the “father” of the process approach to writing, is a classic piece on the need for a change in the way writing has typically been taught in schools. This article helped spark the movement now known as ‘The Writer’s Workshop’ or ‘Process Writing’ approach and has influenced our modern interpretation called ‘Real-World Literacy‘.

This article is excellent because Graves discusses the challenges and needs of students, clearly lays out how teachers can establish a community of writers and the writing process, and provides examples of teachers and students working together.

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Teaching The Writing Process Is The Best Way To Improve Children’s Writing.

 Research clearly states that teaching children the writing process in an explicit way is the best way to improve their writing outcomes. So how is this done? As we have discussed briefly here, Frank Smith describes the two roles involved in writing as being: the author and the secretary.

The Author

When children are in author mode they are concerned with generating ideas, organising thoughts, and arranging selected words and sentences appropriately and effectively.

The Secretary

When in the secretary mode, the child is more concerned with the transcription of the writing (e.g. using correct spelling, capitalisation, handwriting and punctuation).

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