Building a Foundation for Writing • “Writing is a craft before it is an art; writing may appear magic, but it is our responsibility to take our students backstage to watch the pigeons being tucked up in the magician’s sleeve.” – Donald Murray
What we know about primary writers • Primary writers are hungry to communicate long before they are able to create conventional text • Reward children generously when they attempt to communicate via writing • Primary writers must be nurtured and their work celebrated in order for them to take the next steps toward more complex writing. • When we tell primary writers that they aren’t very good, they believe us. • Research shows that young children want to write, they can write, and they possess the knowledge, skills, and experiences to write.
Three writing “beliefs” that foster “writing learning” • Teachers must speak a common language based on traits (coming up soon) • Look at primary writing according to individual traits and as a whole; use the same working vocabulary day-to-day, year-to-year, teacher-to-teacher, to build a foundation • Teachers must nurture process learning • Value and celebrate process over the end product in a classroom where writing is celebrated every day • Teachers must use criteria to set the standard • Use criteria to describe to students what we believe is important for them to learn and how to measure how well they are doing
Nurturing process learning • Writing is complex process. To learn how to do it well takes practice, skill, and determination • A poster of all the traits on the wall where all students can seem them and refer to them. A copy of the traits on the website where students and parents can refer to them
Is the classroom process-centered or product-centered? • In a process-oriented classroom: students work on different tasks at different rates, teachers encourage many short, interesting pieces of writing, small groups of students work together, writing is shared as it is created, questions such as these are typical: • Does this work? What else could I try? Will you help me find a better way to say this?
Is the classroom process-centered or product-centered? • In a product-oriented classroom: students do the same task, all student complete the same, preset assignments, students often work alone, writing is shared only when finished, failure is to be avoided, and questions such as these are typical: • Is this long enough? Is this what you want? Is this going to be graded?
Developing the six (seven) traits of writing • In the mid ’80s, a group of teachers from Beaverton, Oregon (!!), Missoula, Montana, and other places, got together to create a reliable and accurate tool to assess writing. They gathered a huge pool of student work and delineated the work into three categories: “poor,” “fair,” and “good,” and analyzed the common characteristics between all the “good” pieces, the common characteristics between the “poor” pieces and so on. • They came up with a list of seven traits
The six (seven) traits of writing • Ideas and content: the meaning and development of the message • Organization: the internal structure of the piece • Voice: the tone of the piece, the writer’s personal “stamp” • Word choice: the specific vocabulary the writer uses to convey meaning • Sentence fluency: the way the words and sentences flow throughout the text • Conventions: the mechanical correctness of the piece • Presentation: the overall appearance of the piece
The Primary writing traits scoring guide • 5 – ESTABLISHED: The writer shows control and skill in writing standard English text in at least a few sentences • 4 – EXTENDING: The writer is creating readable text and trying new, more advanced skills • 3 – EXPANDING: The writer is gaining confidence and showing some skill in creating readable text • 2 – EXPLORING: The writer shows signs of understanding how to create conventional text • 1 – READY TO BEGIN: The writer is attempting to create conventional text
The Primary writing traits scoring guide • Don’t think of the traits as a set of discreet lessons to be taught each day, week, etc. • Think of the traits as a way of thinking, shaping responses to writing, and talking about the writing. • These traits do not stand alone in the writer’s world; they shouldn’t be taught in isolation.
Steps of the writing process • Prewriting (trait – IDEAS) • Drafting (traits – IDEAS AND ORGANIZATION) • Sharing (traits – ALL OTHER THAN PRESENTATION) • Revising (traits – ALL OTHER THAN PRESENTATION) • Editing (trait – CONVENTIONS) • Publishing (trait – PRESENTATION)
Prewriting • Help students find ideas by: • Talking about topics • Asking questions to help them clarify what they want to say • Reading aloud fiction and nonfiction on a variety of topics • Asking questions to help them discover details about topics • Wondering aloud as you consider new ideas • Creating lists of possible ideas for writing • Sharing your own writing so they see how a more experienced writer chooses a topic • Showing them how other writers draw on experience as a source for details
Drafting • A simple drawing or squiggles that stand for an idea • Imitative text that runs across a page that can be “read” • A drawing with a caption • A short word or phrase that suggests the topic • Pictures from magazines, newspapers, and websites • An oral explanation • Conventional text • No attempt to write here should be discouraged because they are writing! • Primary writers shouldn’t be encouraged, per se, to edit, but they may do so if they so choose. The focus here is on ideas, ideas, ideas, and organization,
Sharing • Sharing is vitally important to understand what’s working and what needs help. • One way to get students is to share a piece of your own (a piece you may write that needs help in organization or has a dearth of ideas, or…) • Probing questions/statements: • “Great idea. Where did you think of that?” (ideas) • “It looks as if you are starting with what you know about gorillas. Which fact should come first?” (organization) • “Will you read to this to me? Yes, I can hear YOU in this story!” (voice) • “Show me your favorite word or phase. Want to know mine?” (word choice) • “I really feel the words pouring out of you. Which part sounds the best or the smoothest to you?” (sentence fluency)
Revision • Many primary writers, of course, do not revise. When a student is approaching the “expanding” stage, they should be able to revise and appreciate the value it has as far as writing is concerned. • When they are ready, have them illustrate their work which will make them think of more ideas or add words from the word wall. • Modeling revision • On the board or overhead: “I love spring. Spring is the best. Spring is fun. I love spring. When I think of spring, I think of all the fun things in it.
Revision continued • Questions students should begin to ask themselves: • IDEAS – does this make sense? Do I know my topic? Is my writing interesting? • ORGANIZATION – do I start off strongly? Is everything in the right order? Are similar things together? • VOICE – can you hear me in this writing? Can you tell that I care about this writing? Have I added some sparkle? • WORD CHOICE – do these words sound right? Do they “feel” right? Have I tried new words? Have I painted a picture? • SENTENCE FLUENCY –can I read my writing aloud? Do my words and phrases go together? Have I tried to use sentences/paragraphs?
Conventions • Conventions must be learned one at a time, and students must learn to apply them to their own work • Try to avoid the red pencil • Worksheets have their place but… • Students learn to edit by editing their own work and the work of others • Is the spacing between letters and words correct? • Is it legible? • Does my capitalization and punctuation make sense?
Conventions cont. • Post easy-to-read conventions rules with examples in the classroom • Create a poster of editing symbols so the students can use them • Create an editing center stocked with colored pencils, highlighters, scissors, etc., for easy use. • Create personal word lists and “dictionaries” for students to use • Try not to overwhelm students with every rule or point out every mistake, but make sure that with every piece of writing, they are learning a rule. • “The audience lost their patience with the awful play.”
Publishing • Younger primary students lack the fine motor skills that will allow for “perfect” presentation, but again, there are steps • When they know that their work will go “public,” they will be motivated to make it look presentable • They’ll add color to this picture, detail to that drawing, etc. • They will feel pride in their accomplishments, just as we do