The writing curriculum, process, traits and workshops will help teachers set up and plan lessons to build successful young writers.
For literacy expert Sharon Callen, being a writer means that ‘you are choosing and using writing for an audience for a particular purpose and to communicate meaning’.
But to effectively achieve this, you need to implement the four W’s of being a writer. In Episode 81 of The Teacher’s Toolkit for Literacy, Sharon discussed these four foundational concepts.
1: W is for Writing Curriculum
This first step revolves around teachers thinking about the writing curriculum they are bringing to their students in their particular state or country.
“For example, the Australian curriculum is divided into three strands, literacy, literature, and language, and those are all interconnected. And so we look through all those elements of what it is that we are enabling our students to understand about writing,” Sharon said.
“So if we look at the literature strand, it talks about our students engaging with and responding to literature. It talks about them examining literature and then creating our own literature. Now I love that in our curriculum, where it says creating literature, it talks about students experimenting and adapting texts. So this falls into this whole imaginative strand of literature. So our curriculum then also breaks it down into these aspects that students will engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment, such as imaginative, informative, persuasive, and that these texts will also be used not just for enjoyment, but by students as models for constructing their own.
“So right there we have this whole reading and writing connection. So here’s the planning tip or technique or ideas that any of us can be thinking about when plotting out our writing for a year.”
2: W is for Writing Process
Number two is the writing process, which asks teachers to understand all the processes writers engage in. This begins with planning and rehearsing, and drafting and revising.
“After I’ve thought about what I’m choosing and identifying as my purpose, my audience, and the meaning that I’m wanting to communicate, the first step is I’m going to be planning and rehearsing. Planning and rehearsing, I find, is something that is least planned for by teachers. So how are we teaching our students to plan and rehearse to be planners and rehearsers?” Sharon said.
“Then the second part is drafting and revising. Some of you may have thought of this as a bit more linear, in that we would draft and then revise. But I put drafting and revising together, because the process of revising isn’t after I’ve done everything. Revising is a critical part of the drafting, the trying out, the ‘getting this going’ process. And if we’re able to have our students draft and revise, they are getting to practice better things every time.
“Now, some of us might say, some of my children are just better at doing the whole draft and then coming back to work on it. If that gets them the best results, then yes, we would do that, because it’s not locked into only one way. This is also about building repertoires, thinking about how do we make this work best for all our students?”
Following these processes is proofreading and editing, and finishing or publishing.
“We would hope that with all of these text types we are working with in a year, that our students are coming to an understanding that we are getting those as close to finished as possible. And finished may be that it is still in a very scrappy looking kind of form, but I have been through the writing process. I’ve planned, I’ve rehearsed, I’ve drafted and revised, I’ve proofread and edited, and now I have finished that process and we take it through to the next stage of finishing and publishing,” Sharon said.
“Publishing allows us to go into that full presentation stage and make all of those decisions about layout, text features, spacing, handwriting, font use … I have thought completely of all of those things.”
3: W is for Writing Traits
The third W, writing traits, refers to the behaviours and traits that good writers are thinking about as they write, which in turn draws in on the art and craft of being a writer.
“How that author develops their ideas, how they organise their writing, how they develop their voice, what word choice they bring into their writing, what sentence fluency they love to achieve, how they use conventions, and how they present their work – these are the seven writing traits,” Sharon explained.
“So we can teach our writers and readers to look at texts using all of those traits … and we want to take them through the process of being a writer. So how do we get them to be a writer who is mindful and intentional about the conventions they use in their writing? How do we help our writers be writers who think intentionally about their presentation? So the writing traits are a powerful framework for us to have our students in the writing process.”
4: W is for Writing Workshop
Finally, the writing workshop provides a vehicle for students to see writing being modelled, practice writing independently, and reflect and share what they’ve done as a writer.
“So in my writing workshop, I want to begin with that explicit modelling of writing. So I want to be doing the think aloud, and I want to be letting my students hear me think through the processes of what I am doing as a writer,” Sharon said.
“And to model writing, I’ve got three really great ways to do that – interactive writing, shared writing, and modelled writing. So modelled writing is all my thinking, my ideas, and I’m physically writing it. Shared writing is the collective class ideas or students adding in. Then interactive writing is when there are times where I’m handing the pen or the marker to an intentionally selected child to come up and put onto the paper that thing that is the focus. So it might be the comma, or it might be the high frequency word that we’ve been working with.”
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