Encouraging Real Independence in Writing

At the start of every school year the term ‘independent learners’ is frequently heard when teachers begin to articulate their goals for the year ahead. They want their students to develop as independent, self directed learners. This is a worthy aspirational goal!

The question I would ask is, –How will you achieve this? What will you do to make this ‘independence’ a reality in the classroom? What will students say and do that indicates they are working independently?

In the writing classroom independence develops when students:

• Are encouraged to select their own writing focus or topic -And their teacher believes they are capable of this deeper thinking.

• Materials for writing are readily accessible

• Frequent opportunities are provided for planning writing and thinking about future writing and ‘rehearsing’ writing thoughts between writing workshops.

• Choose to work on the same writing piece across several lessons.

• Willingly embrace revision in anticipation of a writing conference, a share time or author’s circle.

• Choose to work towards publication because they believe their work merits sharing with an audience.

• Receive differentiated support and instruction during conferences.

• Begin to learn from mentor texts and this is evidenced in their writing.

• Consciously focus on one, maybe two goals at a time to improve their writing.

• Write for authentic purposes and an array of audiences.

These developments are clearly underpinned by teaching that is explicit and directed towards instilling in young writers, a sense of ownership and uniqueness for the writing they create.

Students will continue to exhibit dependency if the culture of the classroom infers that the teacher owns the writing they produce. This happens when:

• The teacher selects topics or provides sentence starters.
• The teacher controls the distribution of writing materials
• The teacher provides the spelling of words and owns the responsibility for correction
• Writing lasts for the length of the lesson or the page
• Students resist revision because they lack a sense of ownership over the writing.
• Publishing always occurs simultaneously –and in the same tired way!


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