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Making Room for Writing

Build writing into your daily instruction

Writing instruction is an essential component of literacy in K-5 classrooms. Some teachers find it daunting to teach writing, and others may find it challenging to fit into their ELA schedules. In schools where writing is not a tested subject at every grade level, it may be tempting to push it aside to focus on tested subjects. But is that a wise decision?  

Writing supports learning how to read. Children who practice daily writing develop critical thinking and communication skills needed for learning. Daily writing instruction reinforces print skills also used during  reading. As children write, they practice the letters and sounds to represent words and communicate their ideas. This helps them develop phonemic awareness and spelling skills as they expand their vocabulary and experiment with text features and structures. Writing helps children to develop their own unique voices and creatively explore different genres of text.

How can teachers make room for writing instruction across the busy school day?

Set aside a daily writing time

Just like daily exercise builds muscles, writing daily fosters better writing and more opportunities to try out different styles/types of writing. Keeping a daily journal allows students to experiment with different types and forms of writing in a low-stakes environment.

Children’s author and writing teacher Mary Amato talks about the importance of finding time for kids to write.

Provide writing instruction that allows choice of  topics, genres, and audiences 

Teachers mentor students by demonstrating and modeling the writing process. Provide personalized feedback on specific strengths and areas to improve. Writer’s workshops that teach the writing process can promote interest and  engagement and help students to communicate their unique style and voice. 

A room of writers

Go inside this third grade class to see how teacher Shana Sterkin engages her students in writer’s workshop. Everyone shares their writing, including Miss Sterkin.

Why is a community of writers so important?

From finding opportunities for students to share ideas, give feedback, and draw together to grow their writing skills to teachers modeling writing and revision, Joan Sedita, founder of Keys to Literacy, says that establishing a community of writers helps young students become more engaged and motivated to learn to write.

Integrate mentor texts into your instruction

A mentor text is a published piece of writing whose idea, whose structure, or whose written craft can be used to inspire a student to write something original. Mentor texts include picture books and chapter books.

Mentor text lesson plans can be organized around these six writing traits: idea development, word choice, organization, sentence fluency, voice, and conventions. So, for example, if you have a writer, or a group of writers, whose writing suggests the need for more interesting words, you can focus on word choice examples (for example, powerful and memorable verbs). 

What are mentor texts and how should I use them to help students improve their writing?

Joan Sedita, founder of Keys to Literacy, talks about how using “mentor texts” — short pieces of literature students can read and reread for specific learning purposes — can help students become better writers.

Include writing beyond the writer’s workshop

Integrate written response across science, social studies, math, and the arts. Learning how to write is not just writing stories and research reports. Written response can enhance students’ understanding of the content areas. For example, students can write notes on a science experiment, create a historical narrative, or keep a math journal and explain the steps to solve a problem.

Quick Writes: A strategy to teach content writing 

Watch as literacy expert Joan Sedita explains how one type of writing called “Quick Writes” can be used across the school day.

Integrate writing instruction with digital tools

Technology has expanded the  possibilities and ways we communicate for K-5 classrooms. Students can use digital tools to type their stories,  to spell or grammar check, or to look up words using online dictionaries. Teach students how to use social media responsibly by assigning writing in blogs, creating podcasts, videos, e-books, wikis, or using other social media platforms.

Digital tools for young writers

Third grade teacher Shana Sterkin uses iPads as a writing tool to help her students organize their ideas and share their writing. In this clip, she demonstrates how to use a simple, free writing app.