Looking at Writing

Writing is a process. Writing with kids can be incredibly rewarding. It can also be painstaking and frustrating, for the writer and for the adult. For most writers, it's somewhere in-between. This interactive tool is designed to help teachers and parents learn more about writing.

To learn more about teaching writing, see our self-paced online course, Reading 101: A Guide to Teaching Reading and Writing.

"Ideas are the cheapest part of the writing. They are free! The hard part is what you do with the ideas you have gathered. " — Jane Yolen

Looking closely at a child's writing allows us to discover what students know and have learned. We see what writing tools and techniques a student is experimenting with, and what the next steps for instruction might be. Our writing samples from real kids provide examples and next-step guidance for students from pre-K to third grade.

What you’ll find here:

  • Writing samples from real kids
  • Advice about instruction based on samples
  • Guidance on writing assessment
  • Classroom strategies
  • Writing resources
  • Video about writing

Classroom strategies

In the classroom strategies section, we've gathered several strategies to support various stages of the writing process. Do your students need help organizing their writing? Sequencing the main events? Look here for strategies that support students' writing.

Writing resources

Our writing resources point you to videos of experts in writing, author sharing their craft, articles for parents and teachers, and much more. We've also included links to a wonderful, free mentor text resource from WritingFix, a website sponsored by the Northern Nevada Writing Project.

Learning to write

How Writing Develops is a brief summary of how kids learn to write. From scribbling to conventional writing and spelling, learn what characterizes each stage and how you can support a budding writer.

Writing assessment

Teachers often struggle with writing assessment. Spelling and mechanical errors are obvious to see, and too often become the focus of the assessment. It's important to consider other aspects of the sample and to include the writers themselves in the assessment process. Within this section you'll find examples and suggestions for assessing writing for teachers and students.

A process approach to teaching writing

In school, writing typically uses a process approach. Students work with a piece of writing, and guide it through four general stages: prewriting, drafting, revising/editing, and publishing. The age of the student and the writing assignment may dictate how much time is spent in each stage. Teachers can use a com- bination of whole group, small group, and individual instruction within each stage of the process.

Let’s get started!

Just click on one of the pre-K through Grade 3 links on the left and begin looking at — and thinking about — writing. 

Production credits

Looking at Writing was developed by Reading Rockets research director Dr. Joanne Meier and teacher-researcher Cathy Meaney. Cathy has over 15 years of experience as a regular and special education teacher. She received a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University and a M.S. in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University. She is a National Board Certified Teacher in Literacy for Early and Middle Childhood. Cathy has worked as a teacher-researcher in her classrooms — collecting, writing, and sharing insights about children's writing with other educators. She currently teaches third graders in Crozet, Virginia.

"A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom" —

Robert Frost