Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Choice, Time and Independence

I spent some time in writing workshops in a few classrooms last week. My faith in the unlimited potential of our children was once again renewed as I saw young writers work their way through texts they chose to write.

I marveled at how soon into the school year first and second graders were able to work with intensity at writing. One child had a several page story going with a great lead. ("Once there was a girl who had woods in her back yard.") She had done some editing and was transfering her writing to a picture book format. I am axious to read the rest of her story. I asked her to make sure she read it to me when it was finished.

Another student, who struggles in writing, was using a mentor text to create his own similar story. It was a pleasure to see him use the scaffold of a mentor text. He was so engaged in the adventure of creating his own book.

In another classroom, children were creating a class book for a student in the class. After interviewing the student, each child was creating a page celebrating the life of the child and what they learned about him in the interview. There was a level of choice and purpose to the task. The pages were compiled into a book that was presented to the student who was interviewed. It was a great way for them to "publish" their writing. They understood that their writing could be a gift.

As they worked on their pages, these first graders chatted about their ideas, helped each other with spelling, and shared their work with each other. When they were finished, these first graders moved to reading or writing activites of their choice with a great deal of independence.

We are all writers.
We will write every day.
We share our writing with others.
We use our own ideas and thoughts in our writing.
We have a choice of what to write.
We can learn from the writing of others.

The teachers in these classrooms have established a way of thinking about writing. Students hear the big messages and are well on their way to developing their own identities as writers.