Skip to main content Skip to main content

Inside Writing Communities, Grades 3-5

Program 4: Fostering Choice and Independence

Viewers will see strategies and practices that encourage students to write. Teacher Mark Hardy's first days of school provide an example as he sets up the writing workshop by allowing his third graders to choose both the genre and the topic for their first pieces. Silvia Edgerton's fifth-grade class engages in a status-of-the-class activity.

View Transcript


Watch the 30-minute video “Fostering Choice and Independence.” Apply what you have learned in “Reasons for Writing” as you watch the extended video of classroom examples.

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

Mark Hardy’s Class

On these first two days of school, Mark Hardy introduces his third-graders to two important components of the writing workshop: writing for a real audience and writing about what they know and love best. (If you are watching the video in segments, you will find this image at the beginning of the segment, approximately one minute into the video.)

  • How does Mark support his students in their selection of writing topics and forms?
  • Based on what you remember from the sharing that takes place at the end of the writing workshop, make a list of writing forms the students chose.
  • Some students started and finished their writing pieces in one day, while others took that long just to choose a topic. How does Mark address these differences? What strategies does he use to keep track of each student’s work and progress?

Mark Hardy: Lesson Background (PDF)

Silvia Edgerton’s Class

Silvia Edgerton begins each writing workshop with a “status of the class,” in which she gathers her fifth-graders together to ask them what they plan to do that day. (If you are watching the video in segments, you will find this image at the beginning of the segment, approximately 18 minutes into the video.)

  • What strategies does Silvia use to elicit detailed information from her students?
  • What does Silvia do to move students further along in the process?
  • What evidence do you see of the students’ independence during the “status of the class” discussion?
  • In what ways are you able to see students taking responsibility for their work?