What does it mean to be a writer? Ask a fourth grader

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What does it look like, sound like, and feel like to be a writer, reader, and thinker in the world? This is the overarching question that fuels teachers who design writing-based curriculum. They are constantly scheming and planning how they can design learning environments where students and teachers become many different kinds of writers over the course of the year. One of the rituals of the writing-based classroom is  to think critically about the writing work that has been done over the year as a way to process the work, deepen the learning, and set future writing goals. The questions that teachers ask their students are pretty simple:

What have you learned about being a writer?

What is your favorite piece and why?

What do you like about writing?

Bonus question: What do you want to get better at as a writer?

The way in which students reflect on these questions depends on their developmental level. Pre-K students talk about the questions as a group with the teacher writing down what she hears. 4th graders write down their own answers to the questions. Teachers collect the responses and use them to reflect themselves on the year and to plan for next.

As this school year quickly comes to a close, teachers and students are in the throes of this ritual, and I wanted to share a particular class of fourth grader’s responses to the questions. For me it shows what can happen when we design learning environments where students and teachers are living a writing life together, where they are writing reflectively, creatively, and analytically out in the real world. Specifically, what I love about these responses is both the sophisticated writerly-sense that the 4th graders have developed over the year and the sense of play that they connect to the act of writing. The responses are also a guide for how we should be designing writing environments if we want students to truly be engaged and to feel that writing is a part of who they are.

1. What do you like about writing?

  • exciting stories from my imagination
  • making up fun awesome stories and characters
  • I like the part where you are kind of just thinking what you’re going to do.
  • I like when I try to put my own self in the story
  • I like when I’m about ready to go to the next chapter but before that I may leave a little “Cliffhanger!”
  • I like to have a sharp pencil.
  • I like when the teacher gives us topics.
  • I like to write stories about fairies.
  • My favorite part of writing is the editing because I get to go back and reread my stories and make sure everything is the way I want it.
  • A fun activity you can do pretty much everywhere.
  • Writing gives you the chance to write down what you’re thinking or about what happened today.
  • Sometimes I like to think about a book that I want to read but hasn’t been written yet, and then write it myself.
  • I love writing fiction stories.
  • What I like about writing is that I can just be free. I can just express how I feel while I am writing.
  • I love that you can pick your characters and their personalities.
  • You can use your imagination to create someone else’s reality.
  • Writing is a new way to let out your emotions on paper

2. What have you learned about being a writer?

  • have fun
  • use your imagination
  • get creative and write about  what YOU want to write about
  • you need correct punctuation and uppercase letter
  • write about what you think you will like
  • all stories don’t have to be true – it can have talking bugs or whatever
  • you can always add people in it if you don’t have the people you want
  • Plan your story before you start writing
  • Don’t ever pick something you don’t like.  Don’t pick it just because your friend is doing it.
  • Write a story that fits your personality.
  • An author should remember the Steps of Writing: Peer conferencing, editing, revision
  • Don’t get frustrated if writing a story takes a long time.  Writing takes a long time.
  • Start with a good beginning.
  • Your book has to make at least a little sense.
  • Choose to write about something that you know a good amount about.
  • Be proud of what your wrote even if someone else does not like it.

3. What is your favorite piece and why?

  • Persuasive letter to Channel 10 – I had fun writing about it and used my imagination from my Robotics team
  • Friendship story – I worked hard on it and at the end it has this thing where it’s like a fable.  Some parts were funny and some were sad.
  • My Dress story because this is the first time I actually wanted to keep writing all day long.
  • I liked my Time Travel and Special Place stories. I like them because they are very different than any other story I wrote.
  • I like my story about my dad because I feel like I got all the details from when he was 10 to when he is 50.
  • My favorite was my time travel story because I put a lot of detail in it and big adventures. I felt that I had a really good connection with the story and the characters.
  • My animal story because it’s different than anything else I’ve written. This story did not have a happy ending which is different for me.
  • I am proud of Chloe’s Dress Visit because when I wrote this I felt like I was a professional author.

 

 

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