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Inside Writing Communities, Grades 3-5

Program 1: Building a Community of Writers

How can teachers in grades 3-5 create classrooms that nurture and support all students' confidence in their ability to write and help them forge their own writing identities? This program explores strategies and practices to help establish successful writing communities within classrooms.

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Watch the 30-minute video “Building a Community of Writers.” If you prefer to watch the video in segments, you can stop at the times suggested below or use the Video Guide (PDF) — a detailed outline of the video — to help you determine places to stop for discussion.

Answer the questions that follow each segment, jotting down your answers in your notebook or using them as discussion starters.

Providing Opportunities for Conversation

In the first segment, fifth-grade teacher Nicole Outsen and third-grade teachers Latosha Rowley and Jeanne Boiarsky recognize the importance of classroom environments where students feel comfortable talking about themselves and their work.  (Stop after the conference between two of Jeanne’s students. You will find this image at the end of the segment, approximately 14 minutes into the video.)

  • What community-building strategies and practices do you observe during Nicole’s and Latosha’s morning meetings? How do these strategies and practices help the students grow as writers?
  • Think about the two conferences from Jeanne’s classroom. What evidence do you see that she has created an atmosphere of safety and respect?
  • How do you encourage your less talkative students to participate in classroom conversations?

Providing Time and Structure for Writing

In this segment, several classroom examples illustrate how effective writing instruction requires a carefully orchestrated structure of rituals and routines as well as time to explore possibilities, reflect on lessons learned, and share and celebrate writing.  (Play to the end of the program.)

  • During the class reflection time, what do Lindsay Dibert’s questions, responses, and body language convey to her students?
  • Mark Hansen says that students often are working out writing dilemmas even when they appear off-task. What teaching strategies or structures would help you balance freedom and control in your writing classroom?
  • Share some ways in which you and your students celebrate and honor writing and writers.