In today’s blog post I wanted to share 4 research-based best practices for teaching writing in K-2 classrooms. I love to use the writing workshop structure where we begin with a focused mini-lesson, move to some modeled examples, then students practice writing on their own while I meet with students. And of course, we always end with a share of some kind!
While I love the writing workshop structure, I always want to make sure my lessons are detailed and targeted to help our youngest learners actually learn how to write. Over the last few years, I have developed targeted, more specific lessons with modeled teacher examples to help teach our K-2 students to write. Those can all be found in the SJT Writing Club!
Now for today’s post, I wanted to share what research says about teaching writing. What are the 4 things we need to keep top of mind when we are planning our writing lessons? To watch/listen to this information, I wanted to let you know I have it available here on YouTube so you can click play below:
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Now, unfortunately, there just isn’t as much research that has been done when it comes to primary writing as there is about primary reading and math practices. But, there was a study referenced in my LETRS training that I went back and read more about. This study assessed students’ writing and found the best samples in both composition and foundational skills. Then, they assessed what those teachers were doing to produce such great writing and found these four best practices. You can read the entire study here: Teaching Elementary School Students to be Effective Writers
So here are their top 4 findings in terms of what teachers should do in their classrooms!
1. Provide daily writing time
This is a specific, set-apart time to focus on writing. Now throughout the years of doing this teacher-online business and working closely with teachers, I hear SO often that it can be difficult to find the time to teach writing throughout the day. If you can set aside a 30-minute (at least) block of time per day to teach writing, it will help your students immensely!
2. Teach the writing process
Now, this tip had part A and part B. The first part of teaching the writing process is to teach students to different parts of creating a writing piece. We brainstorm ideas, draft and write our work, revise, edit, and publish! Now many K-2 teachers often get overwhelmed by hearing this because they think my students can’t even identify their letters, how can they revise their work?! I completely understand, but you need to think about what that looks like in our classroom and manage our expectations. Remember, the kindergarten writing standards include dictation!! Can your 5-6-year-old students brainstorm ideas?! Yes! Can they revise those ideas to add new details?! Yes! Our youngest students can certainly be introduced to all the aspects of the writing process and practice them!
The second part of this tip was that students need to also be taught the different genres of writing. In the students, the students with the most proficient writing had been taught what narrative, informative, and opinion writing was and how they differed from one another. These different types of writing look and sound different and our students need to know that and practice writing each kind.
3. Writing instruction needs to include composition skills AND foundational skills
Students need to learn all the mechanics of writing! We already mentioned in tip 2 that students need to be taught the writing process and what different genres of writing should look like and sound like, but our students also need to learn the basics. In K-2, students need to learn sentence structure. They need to learn when to use capital letters and punctuation. They need to learn about verbs, nouns, and adjectives. It can be overwhelming to squeeze it all in, but be sure to add it into your main lessons that you are teaching the whole group AND your small group writing lessons too!
Now in terms of spelling, I always teach that during our phonics block! In my writing block, we focus on inventive spelling and using the patterns and sounds they know to make words. This helps students continue writing, but also makes sure they are getting what they need so they can encode and spell words correctly!
4. Create a community of engaged writers
This was my favorite tip to read because the research backed something I loved doing in my classroom! I love to teach my students that we are ALL writers and that our words and stories are important. One way I like to foster this writing community in my classroom is to begin at the beginning of the year! Right away, I teach my students that we will be using our writing time to share our stories and that ALL our stories are worthy, regardless of how *much* we are writing. Some of us will be writing with pictures. Others will be using speech-to-text recordings. Others will be writing paragraphs. We all have worthy stories!
I like to have students share their work often as well. This can be as simple as having students share what they added to their work with a partner at the end of the lesson. This can also be hosting an author’s chair where students share their favorite parts of their story. We have hosted big author’s celebrations in our classroom before too, where family members or other classrooms come in and listen to our work. This helps students feel like real authors and know that their work is worth sharing with an audience.
Knowing these 4 research-backed best practices can help you prepare for a whole new year of teaching your students to write! Do you already do all these? Are there any you need to implement next year? Let me know down in the comments!
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