Quick Tip Tuesday: Creating writing opportunities

September 15th, 2009

This week’s Quick Tip comes from David Booth and Jennifer Rowsell, authors of the Literacy Principal: Leading, Supporting, and Assessing Reading and Writing Initiatives. Their book provides tried and true frameworks for principals to create schools where literacy thrives. In this Quick Tip they address how principals and teachers can work together to create school environments where opportunities for writing abound.

Writing activities in classrooms can essentially be divided into three major categories:
1. Independent writing projects — regular opportunities for students to work independently on topics they usually select for themselves
2. Research inquiry — drawn from the curriculum, although at times teachers may assign a topic from a theme or genre the class is exploring as a community
3. Guided writing instruction — done with a group of writers gathered together temporarily to work on target areas of writing techniques and strategies, such as conventions, genre study, or technological skills.

Whatever the activity, there are a couple of significant strategies that teachers can use to help students improve their writing skills. First, connecting writing activities to the reading process where possible helps strengthen overall literacy development. When writing and reading are combined, children have the opportunity to put into practice their awareness of how print works. Second, allowing students to write about topics and issues that matter to them as much as possible provides motivation for acquiring new writing skills.

An open and accepting writing environment in a classroom is essential and should offer a range of writing experiences and products. These might include such forms as diaries, journals, letters, surveys, how-to-do books, games, resumés, bibliographies, autobiographies, lyrics, poems, articles, editorials, essays, memos, advertisements, commercials, brochures, questionnaires, petitions, dialogues, screenplays, and legends, to name a few.

Consider the Writing Process
Students need to realize that writing by definition is recursive: writers consider ideas, write drafts, revise, find more information, edit what has been written, share drafts, reorganize what has been written, edit again, consider published models that interest them, and sometimes even give up and start on another project.

Much of writing is personal, meant only for a writer’s eyes. This writing is seldom edited. Other writing is meant to be communicated, and students need to understand that these pieces require further consideration before publishing. By rereading their own writing both silently and out loud, as well as conferencing with peers and the teacher, students can develop the ability to see changes they want and need to make in their writing as they refine their first drafts. It is essential to help teachers understand that revising and editing are important and essential processes for students to undertake when preparing pieces of writing for publication. Many students realize the need for editing, but have difficulty revising their ideas and changing the structure of their writing.

When examining early drafts, teachers need to look beyond spelling and grammar errors in their initial conversations with young writers and help them look at the bigger picture. In assisting your teachers to effectively implement the writing process in their classrooms, you may wish to consider some of the following strategies:
• Plan ways with the staff for them to model the writing process for their students. By sharing their own writing and reasons for writing, students can learn about the different aspects of the writing process from teachers. For example, a teacher could demonstrate strategies for revision by writing in draft form on the blackboard or on an overhead transparency.
• Decide as a staff what parts of speech or aspects of syntax teachers could focus on over the course of a year at each grade level, and brainstorm games or explorations that could help children discover how language works.
• Encourage staff to follow up on activities in various curriculum areas with collaborative group writing. For example, a group could write a summary of a science experiment, prepare a chart illustrating a concept learned in social studies, or write a poem in response to a drama lesson.
• Promote the use of journals as a means for students to reflect on significant events from their lives, the books they have read, and ideas for future writing. Although they may choose to keep parts of their journals private, they can be encouraged to select pieces for response from their teacher.
• Write a letter to parents encouraging them to respond to content and ideas in their children’s writing and to help them with the revision process where appropriate. You may wish to hold an evening meeting to share techniques for helping students in different stages of the writing process.

Entry Filed under: Quick Tip Tuesday,Writing

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mark Pennington  |  October 4th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I agree that we must carefully and precisely teach how revision and proofreading are distinct processes.

    Here are 10 tips for proofreading and some really fun exercises that will help writers catch their own mistakes-even spelling errors! See if you can catch all of the errors at Top 10 Proofreading Tips without using these tips. I’ll wager that you can’t. These proofreading tips will make a difference in your own writing and in that of your students.

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