Matthew Kirby Virginia Kirby Readers as Writers:Creating Authors in the Upper Elementary and Middle Classroom
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's...no shortcut.” -Stephen King
Virginia Kirby -TTU graduate in elementary education -Teaches upper primary class at Sylvan Prep Academy -Member of the Upper Cumberland Writing Project About Your Presenters • Matthew Kirby -Pursuing master's degree in information sciences -Author of Spider Stories -TTU graduate in history
Building a Collection • A classroom library is a teacher's single greatest tool. • Creating readers by providing students with varied genres in an attractive display will, in turn, create writers.
Representing a Variety of Genres • Picture books: Regardless of student age, picture books are a valid type of writing and need to be represented in a classroom library. Choose different illustration styles and topics for your collection.
Historical Fiction: These books can be used to supplement social studies lessons or as stand-alone works to enjoy. Many students who “don't like to read” can find historical fiction they will be interested to explore.
Classics: Despite the popularity of Captain Underpants, children need to be given the opportunity to explore past great works. • Poetry: A classroom poetry collection should include styles ranging from the works of e. e. cummings to Percy Bysshe Shelley to Shel Silverstein and everyone in between.
Adventure: A genre that typically caters to a male audience, teachers should take care to provide adventure stories that also appeal to female students. • Sci-fi/Fantasy: Because they appeal to the vivid imaginations of children, these related genres are typically favored among young readers.
Mystery/Spooky: These books are not just for October. Many students, especially in early middle school, prefer these genres.
Coming of Age: Books in this genre are arguably the most relatable. Students can identify with these average characters, finding humor and sadness in their daily lives. Many of these works are timeless; however, certain pop culture references can date the stories.
Books on Writing: It is important to include books that explain the craft and help students explore different activities to improve their writing. Some of these are student resources; others are better suited for the teacher to use to pull short excerpts.
Resources to Improve the Classroom Library • Amazon.com • Book Stores • McKay's Used Books • Public Library • School Library • Book Drives • Scholastic
Display • Above all things, the classroom library must be attractive and inviting. Students should be able to access the library freely. Books should be presented at the students' level to reinforce the knowledge that this is their library.
Immersion Area • An immersion area is a section of the classroom that is used to supplement the unit currently being studied. Books, posters, manipulatives, and artifacts should be accessible to students.
Group by Genre: Like a public library, place related books together. Your students are the best determination of which genres need their own baskets, but be sure to represent all of them. Organization • Label by Level: Indicate each book's reading level by placing a sticker or writing on the cover. This lets students know if they are reading below, within, or above their instruction level.
Helpful Hints to Encourage Writing • 1. Writing must come from the writer. Do not change a student's content when editing. • 2. Teach students to use an active voice. • 3. Help create variety in sentence structure and vocabulary by exposing students to lists and texts. • 4. Let them play with their ideas without penalty. Do not grade creative writing; respond to it. • 5. Provide a dictionary/thesaurus set- at least 1 per every 3 students.
Helpful Hints, Cont. • 6. Provide a comfortable, peaceful writing space. • 7. Students should actively use writers' notebooks to record ideas, explore character sketches, etc. • 8. Stop plagiarism in elementary school. Discuss what it means to plagiarize, why it is wrong, and what it would feel like to the author. • 9. Stress content over perfect mechanics. Allow invented spelling in creative writing. • 10. Give your students BIC time.
What is BIC? • “BIC” is a term used by YA author Laurie Halse Anderson. It stands for “Bottom In Chair” and is a necessary part of the writing process. (Chairs are, of course, optional.)
BIC in the Classroom • Journaling a. Prompts b. Free-choice c. Imitating an author • The teacher should also write during journal time.
BIC in the Classroom • J.O.W.T.: Students at Sylvan Prep Academy enjoy quiet, free-writing that they call J.O.W.T., or “Just Our Writing Time”. This culminates in an end of the year authors' tea during which the students present their own books to parents and school faculty.
BIC in the Classroom • Drafting: Students are never too young to begin drafting as part of the writing process. BIC is the best way to encourage thorough drafting, as it takes time to develop ideas. Writing is never truly done.
Q&A • Do you have any questions about how to create writers in the classroom? • Contact us with future questions by e-mail at email@example.com • Take a moment to explore the example library.