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What We Know about Writing, Grades 3-5

Writing Concepts Illustrated

1.  Students possess knowledge about written language and a variety of forms of writing; quality instruction reflects students' experience and knowledge.

Read this:  Writing educator Donald Graves has come to realize that offering students writing choices is meaningless unless we help them connect choice with honest struggle and real life issues.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 1 No. 1, August 1993

Try this:  Tamra Filbrandt considers fifth-grade students' transformations through expressing themselves with poetry and claims the content of children's writing calls for a complete revision of standard educational ideas about who the children are, what they know, how they think, and how much they can learn if teachers only know how to tap into their experiences.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 8 No. 2, October 1999

2.  All families and communities engage with literacy and literacy-related activity. Creating ways to bridge these activities and school writing experiences insures greater participation and success with school tasks.

Read this:  Eileen Craviotto and her colleagues collaborated in a bilingual classroom to create culturally relevant opportunities for learning. They examine the work of four fourth-grade students of different backgrounds to show what this culturally relevant learning looked like.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 7 No. 3, January 1999

Sandra Mercuri, taught children from migrant families with little or no formal schooling. She describes an agricultural theme unit that drew on students' prior knowledge and that presented concepts they may have missed in previous years of limited schooling. She found that clear classroom routines were particularly helpful for the students.
Source:  Talking Points, Vol. 12 No. 1, October/November 2000

Try this:  Esther Gray captures the process of Tommy's literacy learning during six weeks of inquiry study that transformed his attitude toward reading and writing as well as his confidence in his own capabilities.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 78 No. 4, March 2001

3.  The "language arts'' develop in concert. Drawing supports writing, writing supports reading; opportunity to use multiple expressions of language increases language learning and ability.

Read this:  Artist and educator Peggy Albers discusses five guiding principles for helping teachers explore the arts and literacy instruction, intended as a framework for understanding representation of meaning, in whatever sign system or art form.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 9 No. 4, April 2001

Noted writer Donald Murray points out that there is an enormous amount of material from the world of art that can help people see and, therefore, help them write. The connections between writing and visual art as expressed in the work of many writers, including he himself suggest ways to explore the connections between writing and art.
Source:  Voices from the Middle, Vol. 4 No. 3, September 1997

Try this:  Teacher Allen Koshewa asked: What constitutes literacy in a school comprised of families from many cultures? Including music among the other language "arts," encouraged the students to transcend language and allowed multiculturalism to flourish.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 9 No. 4, April 2001

4.  Writing is a social activity; writing instruction should be embedded in social contexts. Students can take responsibility in shaping the classroom structures that facilitate their work.

Read this:  Regie Routman proposes that high academic engagement cannot exist until students understand, support, and self-monitor classroom procedures, routines, and behaviors. 
Source:  English Journal, May 2001

Reading and writing are social process and inextricably linked. Donald Graves and Jane Hansen knew this when they set out to study the role of the Author's Chair in a primary classroom and a year of observation taught them a lot about the concept of author and the role of the group.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 60 No. 2, February 1983

Try this:  NCTE writing leaders Hindley Salch, Marino and Fletcher have years of experience using writer's notebooks as tools for thinking. Here they share key strategies and teaching ideas to make the most of their use.
Source:  School Talk, Vol. 6 No. 4, July 2001

5.  Language learning proceeds most successfully when students use language for meaningful purposes.

Read this:  Anna Reduce describes a fourth-grade unit of study on the genre of nonfiction. While the students' early writings lacked "voice," she concludes that students reclaimed their writing voices as they tackled a range of diverse, interesting topics. She share ideas to launch such a study, choosing and researching a topic, drafting and revising, and publishing.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 8 No. 1, August 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.

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.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 8 No. 1, August 1999

Try this:  Fifth grade teacher Amy Arnberg describes a year-long unit of study on memoir. She notes that even reluctant writers became involved in writing memoirs and that the teacher followed her own advice and began writing a memoir about her grandmother. Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 8 No. 1, August 1999

Fifth grade teacher Carolyn Goldfarb describes an eight-week unit of study on fiction and discusses immersion and exploration, characterization, developing plot, and drafting and revision.
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:  Susan Stires offers that writing is clearly a tool for learning because it allows a learner to see his or her thoughts and to evaluate them, providing learning support across all subject areas.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 1 No. 1, August 1993

Try this:  Many teachers incorporate writing throughout the curriculum and value its use as a meaning-making tool. Three teachers across the elementary grades share writing engagements you can put in place tomorrow.
Source:  School Talk, Vol. 5 No. 3, April 2000

By the time students reach Ruth Beery's fifth grade social studies class, they are well on their way to being lifelong readers and writers. Ruth shares successful writing engagements that bring social studies curricula to life.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 11 No. 1, August 2002

8.  Students' writing reflects the communities in which they participate. The differences in students' ways of using language are directly related to the differentiation of their place in the social world. Language is a form of cultural capital and some forms of language have more power in society than other forms.

Read this:  Language researcher Danling Fu argues that, for new immigrant children, literacy education that challenges students to speak and engage in meaningful work (not worksheets and handwriting practice) is the key to initiating them into American culture, to helping them feel this country is their home. Her focus on the special problems of Chinese students living in Chinatown can be generalized to other cultural populations.
Source:  Voices from the Middle, Vol. 6 No. 1, September 1998

Try 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.  Assessment that both benefits individual writers and their teachers' instructional planning is embedded within curricular experiences and represented by collections of key pieces of writing created over time.

Read this:  Researchers share what they learned from six exemplary teachers of writing who teach within high-stakes accountability systems while remaining true to sound theory and practice in teaching their children to write.
Source:  Language Arts, Vol. 79 No. 3, January 2002

Try this:  Fifth-grade teacher, Hope Jenkins, had been sharing evaluation with her students for some time, and decided to make the change to writing report card comments together, thus sharing evaluation in one more way.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 5 No. 4, November 1997

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.  Language skills and conventions (grammar, punctuation, spelling) are most successfully learned and later used with a combination of carefully targeted lessons applied within the context of meaningful writing.

Read this:  Teacher beliefs determine the kind of writing experiences they create and how they blend craft, conventions and procedures. This 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:  Author Ralph Fletcher describes how writing with specifics can transform poetry, helping to create vivid pictures in the reader's mind. He uses three of his own poems to illustrate the judicious use of detail.
Source:  Voices from the Middle, Vol. 4 No. 1, February 1997

11.  Authors and teachers who write can offer valuable insights to students by mentoring them into process and making their own writing processes more visible.

Read this:  Award-winning author Karen Hesse discusses her writing for children and young adults and how ideas for particular books arose, as well as the research and writing processes that went into them. Includes reviews of nine of her books.
Source:  Voices from the Middle, Vol. 4 No. 2, April 1997

Try this:  Aimee Buckner, a fourth-grade teacher, uses Julius Lester's "John Henry" to lead students into reading like writers, thus giving them the opportunity to make the connection between published writing and their own.
Source:  Primary Voices K-6, Vol. 7 No. 4, April 1999

12.  Technology provides writers the opportunity to create and present writing in new and increasingly flexible ways, particularly in combination with other media.

Read this:  Gretchen Lee suggests the authentic audience found on the Internet has a profound effect on the quality of student writing in all grades, and that the key to successful technology projects is integrating them into the curriculum so that computers are a means, not an end.
Source:  Voices from the Middle, Vol. 7 No. 3, March 2000

Try this:  Classroom teachers Cora Lee Five and Marie Dionisio share opportunities to use the World Wide Web to support reading and writing workshop.
Source:  School Talk, Vol. 4 No. 3, April 1999

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Becoming Writers in the Elementary Classroom
Using the Writer's Notebook in Grades 3-8
Wondrous Words


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