Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why Should You Write With Your Students?

Hello, friends!  Thank you for stopping by today.

I'd like to share something I tried this week that was a super huge motivator for my student writers -- writing WITH them.  I'm also linking up with the super amazing Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching.  (Joanne and I bonded immediately over our shared love of the exclamation point!)
I have been doing Writing Circles with my two writing classes for the past four weeks.  What are Writing Cirlces?  Here's a quick tutorial or you can click on my Writing Circles link to the right:
  • Put students into groups of about four writers.
  • Each group chooses a topic to write about.  (This week's topics ranged from "dogs" to "the future" to "memories.")
  • Each student writes a draft on their group's topic.  The genre they write in is the choice of each individual writer.  Drafting takes about two days.
  • Groups come back together to share their drafts and to receive feedback from their group members.
  • Groups choose a new topic and the process repeats.
  • After about four to six drafts, students each choose one of their drafts to revise and publish.

This week, I decided to join one of the Writing Circles in each of my 4th grade writing classes.  (My two group's topics are "the future" and "end of the world."  They could be seen as similar topics that only require one piece of writing from me, but I am writing a separate draft for each topic.)

As my student writers worked on their drafts, I wrote along with them.  They got to see me go through the same processes and struggles that they go through.  It gave value to what they are doing because they knew that if I was doing the writing as well, it was something to be taken seriously.
"The desire to write grows with writing." - Erasmus

Then on the second day of drafting, I asked my students if I could have their help.  I was having difficulty with developing the problem for my "end of the world" piece.  I read the piece out loud to the class and asked students to volunteer ideas on what I could do next.  Their ideas were AMAZING and gave me some inspiration for what I want to include in the rest of my story.  My students?  They felt their opinions and ideas were valued because they were helping the teacher.  They felt a part of a real writing community.

Since I've been writing with my students, the quality and amount of writing has definitely increased in my classroom.  It was so quiet one day, we could actually hear the heat come on in the room!  The students are looking forward to Monday where they can share their drafts with their groups and hear the rest of my story.  I'm looking forward to it too because I also feel like we have become a writing community in our tiny classroom.

How about you?  Do you write with your students?  How does your class build it's writing community?

I'm going to check out more motivating ideas at Joanne's blog.  Hope to see you there and also back here tomorrow for my weekly A Peek at My Week linky party.  :)

Have a great day!


  1. I love the idea of writing circles! Thank you so much for sharing that! I looped up with my kiddos so I am always on the lookout for ways to spice things up a little bit-they are bored with my old stand-bys.


  2. Writing has always intimidated me. I don't consider myself a very good writer and therefore don't consider myself a very good writing teacher. This is a great way to let students see that even teachers struggle too! Loving the writing circle idea too!
    A Tall Drink of Water

  3. I could NOT agree with you more!! I've been doing this for years, since the students I had were unable to figure out how to even begin a story. I model each chunk of the thinking map, each chunk of the 1st draft.....I have a health aide in my class who came up to me the other day to tell me that she was so glad I did this. She thought is was such a brilliant idea, as the child she watches over has struggled and struggled with writing for the past 3 years.

    I honestly have no idea how to teach writing any other way. The kids get a kick outta my story, and I often see them copying my style in their own writing. Very cute!!
    Thank you for sharing this great idea! : )

    Teaching Powered by Caffeine

  4. This sounds like a fun activity! I may have to try it with some of my fifth grade groups. When I taught second grade, I used a lot of my own stories to model. They loved learning about me! And a lot of them modeled their writing after mine (some of their stories were toooo similar haha).

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple

  5. This is perfect and such a fabulous motivator. The kids really do like to see us working on the same things as them and makes it that much more meaningful! Kudos to you!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  6. I have never tried Writing Circles... I'm in! It sounds like such a great idea!
    Grade 4 Buzz

  7. This writing circles idea sounds great! I do model writing for my second graders a lot. A couple of weeks ago I found myself writing WITH them, but it was more of a challenge because they were slacking off. I was telling them that I bet I could write a good paragraph with a central idea, etc. in less time than them. It worked for that day!

    Literacy Spark

  8. I model and write with my students everyday. I know many teachers don't feel comfortable writing in front of their students, but several people feel better about it after I tell them they may not be the "best" writer, but they certainly write better than any of their 4th graders! They need to see their teacher struggle and make mistakes just like they do. I love reading about your writing community-I think this is the hardest community to build in a classroom because writing is so personal. When we have this, we know we have a safe environment! :) I like the sound of writing circles! Are you students grouped by ability or a mix? Thanks for sharing such a great post and linking up my "EXCITING!!!!" friend! xoxo
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  9. I definitely go through the writing process with my students when we work on projects. I also model different strategies. However, I need to get better about writing in my notebook so I can have more samples to share with the students. I love that you participated in writing circles. It sounds like a great way to motivate and bond with your students.

    Fit to be Fourth

  10. Great post Jennifer! I also loved reading everyone's comments! I used to pre-write what I would "model" for my students. And I realized that I am sometimes doing them a disservice when I do that because it is not the true writing process!

    Kate :)
    McDee's Busy Bees

  11. Writing circles sounds fabulous! Especially in between units or specific standards! My 6th graders love it when they can free write. :)



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