How Do I Provide Authentic Opportunities for Students to Write?
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Encouraging students to write and respond purposefully takes more than creating a supportive context for writing. Creating a time and place where students can write and respond purposefully requires some common elements. All writing workshops should provide the opportunity for focused lessons, independent writing time and opportunities to share.
One of the teacher’s responsibilities in this community is to capture those teachable moments and stretch the students’ thinking through focus lessons. Independent writing time, while initially unnerving to the teacher, provides the time for students to take risks and discover purposeful reasons to write and time to confer with other writers and text to imagine the full range of possibilities.
Most writers approach the writing of different kinds of texts with different strategies. You may, for example, write lesson plans as single drafts, with most of the planning happening as you talk with colleague teachers and think through ideas on your own. You may write poetry as a more solitary pursuit, beginning with notes you've jotted on napkins and on the corners of other pieces of paper.
Part One: To understand more about the ways in which you write different texts, try to answer some of these questions:
- What kinds of writing do you do on a regular basis?
- Are there certain genres that you enjoy more? enjoy less?
- Do you think your students use different strategies for writing different kinds of texts?
- Do you provide intentional instruction on these strategies?
- Do you provide text as models?
Part Two: In small groups, preferably grade levels or similar grade bands, revisit the writing expectations and shifts and brainstorm possible authentic opportunities for writing. If you need help getting started with the brainstorming process, here is a great list of authentic audiences from Traci Gardner, author of Designing Writing Assignments.
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