Developing Our Writing

Last week, we introduced a new learning centre into our classroom environment, a writing centre complete with a mailbox, envelopes, stamps, letter pads, postcards and other materials.

Writing Centre in Excellence ClassWriting Centre in Excellence Class

Writing Centre in Excellence Class

This centre was set up after the interest the children showed in writing letters to each other during our unit of inquiry into journeys. This time around, the centre was set up with a specific purpose for the children.

Recently we have been talking a lot about the Learner Profile ‘Caring’. What caring means, how we are already caring and what we can do to be more caring. After unpacking and discussing this learner profile we then created a class poster that displayed our understanding of this.

Caring examples

We then encouraged the children to be aware of how their peers were being caring. If they saw someone demonstrating this learner profile we thought it would be a great idea to let them know by writing a letter or postcard and mailing it in our class mailbox.

Instantly, we saw an increase in children using and writing in the centre and also an increase in children talking about being caring and who was being caring. This was authentic for the children, they were writing with a purpose and were thoroughly engaged.

This point is crucial because:

“Regular engagement in authentic and purposeful writing tasks which encourage young learners to ‘approximate’ conventional spellings using a mix of letter names, and letter-sound correspondences (invented or temporary spellings) provides a more effective medium for learning and acquiring complex phonic knowledge than lock-step, teacher-controlled, ‘telling’ of this knowledge”
David Hornsby and Lorraine Wilson

The children were having a go at writing on their own, making connections between sounds and letters they knew and taking a risk with their writing. More importantly, they had a reason for writing and wanted to write.

At the end of the week, the mailman then delivered all the letters to the children, who were extremely excited.

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As the letters were being handed out, the children suddenly noticed a problem though. A lot of the letters had no names on them so we didn’t know who they were for or who had written them. It became very confusing and there were a lot of undelivered letters. This was something we had to fix.

We had the chance to discuss this problem during class this week. The children were shown an example letter Mr Jarryd had written to Ms Jacky.

Sample Letter

Sample Letter

When the children were looking at the letter they were asked what they observed or what they could see in it. They were able to talk about the different features they saw.

This is what they observed:

  • The word ‘Dear’
  • The word ‘From’
  • Two different names
  • A picture
  • Words that are spelt correctly

From these observations, we created a checklist that the children can now refer to when writing their letters to each other. This will make sure they are able to include the relevant parts and their letter can be delivered successfully.

To reinforce these observations and checklist we then participated in a shared writing experience.

“In Shared Writing, the teacher acts as the scribe, allowing students to participate in the creation of a text without having to actually write it. Students are actively involved, as they are invited to contribute, develop and organise ideas. The teachers responds to students’ contributions with comments and questions, using the results to shape the writing.”
Page 18, First Steps Writing Resource Book

As part of this shared writing experience, each child had their own marker and small laminated sheet to write on. Mr Jarryd then asked questions to prompt the children and to help them co-construct the letter.

Shared writing

First we chose who we were going to write the letter to – Sebastian in Grade 3 – and then we worked together to write the letter. The children were able to say we needed ‘Dear Seb’ at the start to make sure he got the letter. They then had a go at writing this on their own writing pad, sounding out the words and writing the letters they thought made that sound. Mr Jarryd was then able to show them through this and model the correct spelling of these words. We continued this process all the way through – the children came up with the ideas for the letter, had a go at writing on their own and then Mr Jarryd modeled the different strategies you can use when writing independently.

Eventually we had a letter for our friend Seb:

Letter to Seb
Dear Seb,
Soccer is Fun!
From Excellence

What do you think of our writing attempts?

After this shared writing experience, we have now updated our writing centre and included the checklist to support the children’s independent writing. Have a look!

Writing Letters Learning Centre

Writing Letters Learning Centre

The children can now refer to this checklist when they are writing. This will allow them to keep track of their own writing and ensure their letter gets successfully delivered to the desired person. This will allow the students to be independent learners who take ownership of improving their writing. The ultimate goal we have for students in all their learning.

Would you like to try some writing at home?

Here are some ideas:

  • Write a thank-you note or card to friends or family
  • Write party invitations
  • Write letters or emails to family
  • Let your child write the grocery list
  • Let your child draw and write about their favourite book
  • Write about a holiday you have been on
  • Create your own story book with your favourite characters
Happy Writing
Please share your home writing with our class!

References

  1. Hornsby, David, and Lorraine Wilson. Teaching Phonics in Context. Port Melbourne, Vic.: Pearson Australia, 2011.
  2. Department of Education Western Australia. First Steps – Writing Resource Book. Western Australia, 2013.

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