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What We Know about Writing, Grades K-2

Writing Concepts Illustrated

1.  Young children possess knowledge about written language and a variety of forms of writing—stories, lists, signs—from an early age; quality instruction in the primary grades reflects children’s experience and knowledge.

Read this:  In this article, Barbara Comber examines three children's early experiences of school literacy lessons to consider what makes a difference in their relative success and failure during the first months of school. She argues that how, whether, and to what extent children take up what teachers make available to them is inextricably connected with the repertoires of practices and knowledges the children already possess.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 78 No. 1, September 2000

Try this:  This ReadWriteThink lesson helps young readers become more aware of their reading abilities through the use of environmental print. The lesson involves (1) bringing environmental print from the students’ surrounding community into the classroom through artifacts and photographs; (2) making a visual display and class books that can be accessed and used by the students; and (3) giving the students plenty of opportunities to use their reading skills and view themselves as competent readers and users of print.

2.  All families engage with literacy or literacy-related experiences. Creating ways to bridge family and school writing experiences insures greater participation and success with school tasks.

Read this:  "Current Issues: Linking Home and School through Family Visits" describes a research study in which three primary-grade teachers and two researcher colleagues visited, interviewed, and planned with the families of their students over three years in order to better support children's literacy development by creating instruction that built on what the students already knew.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 78 No. 3, January 2001

Try this:  Family Message Journals can be tools for learning, thinking, and self-expression. When writing messages about school activities children think about, and articulate what they have learned, connect new information to known information, and express thoughts and feelings about their learning.

Some students come to school needing additional support and Njima is one such second grader. Through attendance at an after school literacy program and the involvement of her mother, she gained confidence and a repertoire of learning strategies that she could develop in everyday experiences at home—strategies that any teacher might adapt.
Source:  Talking Points, Vol. 12 No. 2, April/May 2001

3.  The “language arts” develop in concert. Drawing supports writing, writing supports reading; opportunity to use multiple expressions of language increases language ability.

Read this:  Teacher Kay Cowan shares the work of three kindergarten students to illustrate the integral relationship between the creation of visual art and the development of written and oral language, clearly showing how children use art as a tool for composition.  She reflects on stages of literacy development and the arts and the acquisition of skills and the arts.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 9 No. 4, April 2001

Try this:  Drawing is an important part of the literacy process. Children read pictures to understand, make pictures to tell what they mean, and write the pictures into words. Continuing to use drawing past those early years not only helps students to make personal connections with their writing, but also results in more natural writing and a greater range of writing genre. It helps prompt ideas for writing and teaches the skills of observation.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol 10 No. 2, October 2001

Drawing can create a bridge between paper and a child’s ideas. In this ReadWriteThink lesson, students use factual information gathered from the Internet as the basis for creating a nonfiction story. Story elements are then used as a structure for organizing students' ideas.

4.  Writing is a social activity; writing instruction should be embedded in social contexts.
Through face-to-face interactions, children come to understand that writing serves many functions, that relationships exist between speaking and writing, and that writing is aimed at, and therefore must be sensitive to, an audience.

Read this:  A group of colleagues explore the functional and aesthetic use of print as a means to consider how best to support the literacy learning of young students. The group's growing understanding of literacy as a social practice and reading and writing as cognitive processes precludes the prescriptive use of literacy curriculum materials.
Source:  School Talk, Vol. 7 No. 4, July 2002

5.  Language learning proceeds best when children use language for meaningful purposes.

Read this:  Researchers Fu and Townsend compare the learning and writing experiences of a child during his kindergarten year (with frequent immersion in reading and writing activities in their writing workshop) to his first-grade year (with worksheets and decontextualized exercises), critically examining so-called "serious" literacy learning that lacks a real audience and purpose for students.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 76 No. 5, May 1999

6.  Experience with a particular kind of writing is the best indicator of performance; extensive reading and writing within a particular genre or domain increases performance.  Performance on most of the components of writing achievement varies with topic and type of writing: vocabulary, syntactical patterns, fluency, patterns of errors, organizing structures and even writing processes will all vary from one topic or type of writing to another. These variations mean that control of a particular kind of writing is best supported by ample experience with its use.

Read this:  Isoke Nia describes a year-long study of writing genre. She addresses: getting started by mapping out the units for the year, the function of mini-lessons, drafting, embellishment and voice. She notes that even reluctant writers became involved in writing and that she followed her own advice and began writing a memoir about her grandmother. A rubric for evaluating memoirs is included.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 8 No. 1, August 1999

7.  Writing is effectively used as a tool for thinking and learning throughout the curriculum.

Read this:  Teacher beliefs determine the kind of writing experiences they create and how they blend craft, conventions and procedures. This School Talk issue revisits the teaching of writing and provides a "refresher" course on writing workshop components and strategies 10 years after the teaching of writing became more common in elementary classrooms.
Source:  School Talk, Vol 4. No. 4, July 1999

Try this:  Three teachers across the elementary grades have found strategies to incorporate writing throughout the curriculum and to value its use as a meaning-making tool. Each shares writing engagements you can use tomorrow.
Source:  School Talk, Vol. 5 No. 3, April 2000

8.  Students’ writing reflects the communities in which they participate. The differences in children’s ways of using language are directly related to the differentiation of their place in the social world.  The effective participant in a community will be the person who can use writing to add his or her own contribution to the conversation, who can write with authority in ways that others will find interesting and convincing.

Read this:  Wera, a recent immigrant from Poland, uses memoir as a tool to reflect on her life while shaping her identity between home and school.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 80 No. 3, January 2003

A group of linguistically diverse teachers come to identify themselves as writers by drawing neighborhood maps and writing personal narratives about childhood memories.
source:  Language Arts, Vol. 80 No. 3, January 2003

9.  Effective teachers are responsive to each learner’s efforts and are able to craft relevant instructional experiences in response. Effective assessment plays a parallel role.

Read this:  Researcher Beverly Falk outlines principles for assessments that are supportive of teaching and learning, and discusses qualities that such assessments must have in order to be useful for reporting information to the public. She introduces a language-arts assessment—--the Elementary Literacy Profile--—designed to embody these principles and qualities and to be instructionally supportive, as well as useful for accountability.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 76 No. 1, September 1998

Try this:  Planned responses to the writers in your classroom can prove to be invaluable and enable students to stretch their ability as writers. In “Conferring in the writing workshop,” four experienced teachers of writing offer their best advice.
Source:  School Talk, Vol. 6 No. 2, January 2001

10.  Writing develops in non-linear ways and takes multiple forms before becoming conventional. The sophistication of children’s ideas and their understanding of language are not always reflected in their written forms.

Read this:  Researcher Elizabeth Sulzby describes the results of 15 years of study of young writers, illustrating the move from descriptions of children’s proficiencies to collaborations among educators aimed at increasing writing opportunities for children.  Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 69, April 1992

Try this:  This ReadWritThink lesson invites primary students to share their letter/sound knowledge in a small group and gives teachers an opportunity to assess knowledge in a meaningful context. Working with name cards, students share observations about their names and the names of their classmates.


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