Create A Writing Center
Create a space for students to experience and practice newly acquired writing skills independently. A writing center is a great spot to foster interest and provide independent opportunities.
WRITING CENTER SUPPLIES
- Paper of all types, colors and sizes
- Book making supplies
- Greeting cards and postcards
- Memo pads
- Pencils/Colored Pencils
- Stamps/Stamp Pads
- Date Stamp
- Letter Stamps
- List of classmates’ names and pictures
- Displayed Alphabet
- Word Walls
- Anchor Charts
Create A Word Wall
A Word Wall is a collection of words that are easily visible in the classroom. This wall provides a dictionary of sorts for those high frequency words that generally break phonics rules or appear regularly in print. This wall serves as a reference support for students, enabling them to become independent writers.
Setting up the wall
Place the Word Wall in a central location that can be easily seen from various views in the classroom.
Use a font that is easily read.
Refer to the wall often to practice words and train students to look at the wall for support.
Put up the words one at a time as they are taught. If you litter the wall with the year’s worth of words in advance they will not easily see the dictionary pattern of the wall or completely learn its purpose.
As you place words, use the think-a-loud approach to teach reference skills that allow words to be easily found.
A great way to begin the wall is by introducing student's names in a dictionary fashion as letters are being introduced. Do not add the entire class to the wall at one time. The process is more important than the product. Add the names as you introduce each letter.
The teacher guides children to compose messages using a combination of writing. For beginning writers to understand what writing is and to cognize the connection between spoken and written language, the teacher must continually model the writing process by using the think aloud strategy - that is to verbalize the writing process as it is being executed. In subsequent sessions the teacher gradually solicits the student’s assistance as they begin to identify sounds and name letters in words; the teacher acknowledges and writes the letters in the correct placement. This daily modeling and interaction builds confidence and encourages students to become independent writers. The 6+1 Traits® Of Writing should be modeled continually, and it’s specific vocabulary: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation (NREL, 2008, p. 1) should be used when modeling writing strategies to the students. For example a teacher may say, “Molly, I really like the word choice”.
EXAMPLES OF SHARED WRITING
- Morning Message
- Daily News
- Schematic Organizers
- Group Stories
QUESTIONING THAT EXTENDS THE LEARNING DURING SHARED WRITING
The following are examples of questions a teacher might ask students to extend the learning during a shared writing experience.
Concepts of Print
- Where did we start writing? Which way did we go?
- What did we put at the beginning and end of the sentence?
- What did we leave between each word?
- Find a favorite letter. What is it?
- How many words are in this sentence?
- Should I use a uppercase letter in this word?
- What sound did you hear at the beginning(or end) of ___?
- Name another word that begins with the same sound as ____?
- Tell me a word that rhymes with ____?
- When I say __ __ __, tell me the sounds you hear.
- How many syllables are in the word _____?
- What sound and letter does ____ begin with?
- What sound and letter does ____ end with?
- Find a word with the same beginning sound as _____?
- Find a word that belongs to the _____ word family.
- Let’s make a list of other words that begin with, end with, or rhyme with ______?
- Do you see a vowel in the word _____?
- What is the vowel in the word ______?
High Frequency Words
- Find the word _____.
- How did we spell _____?
- Circle the sight word _______.
- I need to write the word ____.
- Can you point to that word on the word wall? Or, can you spell that word?
The teacher guides group writing. All children participate in the composing and even construct various aspects of the writing. Students experience writing for a purpose and with meaning.
One way to initiate interactive writing is through response to literature that offers a topic for discussion. For example after reading the Little Red Hen, you can write about why it is important to help others. As you share the pen with the students, work at their level of independence.
EXAMPLES OF INTERACTIVE WRITING
- Class made books
- Story analysis
- Class letter
- Rewriting nursery rhymes and poems
- Student generated sentences
- Story maps
- Sentence strips
- Have/Can/Are activities
Structured Writing is an effective method of modeling, reinforcing, and providing practice in the use of conventions of print. Through structure writing, children can practice basic grammatical and spelling conventions, practice using sight words, and spelling.
In Structured Writing, teachers provide a model for the children to copy directly onto paper. Modeling begins with very simple developmental tasks that increase in difficulty. Progression includes: Single letter formation, fill in the blank sentences such as I like ______. I can ride a ______, and then onto full word and sentence formation. Then the progression moves on to copying poems,
EXAMPLES OF STRUCTURE WRITING
- Writing alphabet letters
- Class-Made book reproductions
- Fill in the blank sentences
- Copying Sentences
- Copying Poetry
- Making Cards
- Reconstructing and copying sentences
- Tracing sentences
- Filling out forms
- Labeling (tracing or copying)
GUIDED OR SCAFFOLED WRITING
Guided writing is a time when the teacher provides guidance; mini-lessons and scaffolds support to move students within their zone of proximal development (ZPD). This type of writing is based on the works of Vygotsky (1979). Children are encouraged to solve their own problems with teacher assistance.
For step-by-step instructions to use this scaffold writing approach, check out this economical product that not only includes this proven-easy-to-use writing approach, but includes 100 writing prompts in a variety of formats. This packet also includes mini-lessons that encourage writing independence.
USING WRITING PROMPTS
One of the best things to do to satisfy the need for writing daily is using writing prompts. Using prompts is an easy way to keep students engaged and excited about writing. They help prevent writer’s block, inspire creative and independent thinking, and give students a level of comfort when asked to take risks.
Keep writing prompts simple and open to interpretation, sometimes a simple title will suffice. Some examples of such prompts are:
- My first day of School
- My Classroom
- What I like About My Friends
- My Best Birthday
The last semester of the year should be spent developing independence.
Independent writing is the end goal of modeled, shared, structured, interactive, and scaffold or guided writing. As students learn the tools of self-expression and gain confidence in their mastery of writing conventions, they will become independent writers and love the process. To optomize this move to independence, provide students with purposeful anchor charts.
During the last semester of the year it is time to turn students loose as independent writers using the resources provided at the writing center as well as using peer resources. At this time the students will begin to attend writers’ conferences.
The teacher will become available to call students over from the writing center to work on individual levels, scaffolding students to greater writing success. (Always encouraging them to do more.) Daily writing conferences are not necessary, but it is important to call students over at least twice a week to keep students moving within their ZPD.
As one sentence becomes easy for a student to produce, a second sentence should be added. As before, you must scaffold the students to the next level continually pushing them within their zone of proximal development.
Remember that to scaffold a student to greater heights, continual instruction must occur. Also during independent writing, allow students opportunities to read their work to others. Provide opportunities for an author’s chair during whole group times.
Eventually students will be working so independently that they will have their lines drawn and their sentences written completely on their own. As students move into independent writing they will drop the lines themselves. Voila’! Independent writers emerge!