Sherry’s Writing Weblog

October 25, 2008

Write to Learn/Write Around

Filed under: Writing Lessons — sdoherty @ 2:59 pm

I read a book last summer that deepened my knowledge of teaching kids to write.  The book is called Content-Area Writing, by Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman and Nancy Steineke.  The authors speak of “writing to learn” vs. “public writing”.  Writing to learn occurs when we are using writing as a tool for thinking–to find out what’s in our heads, record our thoughts/ideas, make connections, figure out what’s important, move our thinking around, or highlight our thoughts.  We write to learn every day.  Examples of writing to learn are journals, lists, emails, plans, diagrams, responses, brainstorming, notes, etc.  Writing to learn is short, exploratory, informal, unedited, and not assessed as writing.  The writer’s notebook, in my point of view, is a tool for writing to learn. Public writing (essays, articles, stories, etc) is the opposite of writing to learn.

I think it’s important to give our students many writing-to-learn opportunities.  They need to practise communicating their thoughts clearly and in an organized manner.  The book I referred to above has lots of practical ideas for writing to learn.  One idea that I’ve tried in a workshop for teachers, and liked, is called ‘Write Around’.  It works as follows:

Students work in groups of 3-5.  They read text or have text read to them, or are assigned a topic by the teacher.  Then they are given 1-2 minutes to respond in writing to the text/topic.  (The amount of time given to respond will vary with each class or grade.)  In their groups, students pass their responses to the right.  They silently read what the other student wrote, then they have 1-2 minutes to respond to that student’s idea.  Pass again.  The students read what the previous 2 students have written and respond to their ideas.  Repeat until each group member ends up with his/her original paper.  What results is a string of silent conversation about the text or topic.  In a group of 4, there will be 4 strings of different conversation.  This activity is not only great for writing to learn, but imagine the comprehension the students will have of the text that has been read, or of the topic that was discussed.  This would be a great activity after a read aloud or shared reading lesson, or even after small group instruction.  It would also work well across the curriculum, for reviewing a science concept for example.


October 20, 2008

Writing Lessons

Filed under: Writing Lessons — sdoherty @ 7:44 pm

I always learn so much from other teachers.  Recently I was introduced to a fantastic web site (thanks, Kelly Moore!) for writing.  I particulary love the lessons using picture books and chapter books to teach students the six traits of writing.  Check them out.

Please feel free to add any other ideas, lessons, or resources.  The more we share and learn from one another the easier our jobs will be.

October 18, 2008

Mini-lessons for Writer’s Notebooks

Filed under: Mini-Lessons for Writer's Notebooks — sdoherty @ 1:39 pm

One thing I’ve noticed about WNs is that they can easily become journals filled with shallow writing.  I think it’s important to give kids direction, with mini-lessons, on a regular basis.  Yesterday I worked with kids in a junior classroom who have just started to use notebooks, and I’d like to share my mini-lesson. 

I began by sharing my own WN, reading a couple of different entries to demonstrate the variety it contains–a poem, a top 10 list, and a personal andecdote.  Then I talked to the kids about how the WN is different than a journal; that every entry shouldn’t sound the same…Today I went to my cousin’s and we played video games.  I beat level 7.  Blah, blah, blah.  They laughed and nodded.  I read them my memory list–Things I will never forget.  A few ideas were peeing my pants in grade 1 (they loved this); getting stuck at the top of the Demon Drop at Cedar Point (I’m afraid of heights); and jumping into a pool and knocking out my two front teeth, the summer before grade 8.  I had them make their own memory lists, which were very interesting.  A few kids wrote about almost drowning (wouldn’t that make an interesting entry), some wrote about broken limbs, lost pets, friends, coming to Canada for the first time, etc.  Then we shared, which they loved.  (I believe in sharing, sharing, sharing.  The more sharing, the better).  At the end of the lesson I had them place stars beside ideas that they think they could say more about and told them that these could become future notebook entries.  I wrapped it up by talking about how writing can be so much more interesting when it comes from real experiences with lots of emotion.  They were so excited at the end of this lesson.  I can’t wait to visit their classroom again and listen to some of their entries.

I’d like to hear from others about mini-lessons, or even conversations with kids that they think have made a difference.

October 8, 2008


Filed under: Welcome — sdoherty @ 3:58 pm

If you are visiting this weblog then you are obviously interested in using, or learning about using, a writer’s notebook in your classroom.  I want this blog to be a place where teachers can share ideas, stories, questions, and general comments about implementing a writer’s notebook in the classroom.  It is my hope that this blog becomes a useful tool for professional learning and that both teachers and students benefit in the process.  I can’t wait to begin learning with you!

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