Writing In Schools- Critical Conversations

In my travels between schools I am seeing an increasing number of them engaging in critical conversations around the teaching of writing.

They are striving to flush out the important issues that surround the work being done across the school to support writing development. A desire to develop agreed understandings and consistent practice regarding pedagogy are guiding these important moves.

There exists in these schools a desire to ensure student writers think more deeply about what they are writing down; to write about the things that matter most to them, -those things closest to the heart. So voice and choice are becoming a centrepiece of the writing program.

To foster the emergence of writing during the year there is an understanding that It is important to teach young writers how and where to find great ideas for writing. Ideas often lying deep inside the young writer.

Teachers have embraced the importance of modelling such things to student writers. They are sharing their own writing, their own wonderings, and their own observations of the world. They are laying the foundation for thinking about potential writing ideas. In an increasing number of classrooms I am witnessing important actions taking place within the writing workshop to drive learning deeper. Here are some of the essential learning I am seeing emerge:

  Writers make lists of important memories, people, places which could become writing topics
· Writers sometimes sketch important memories, people, places which could spark an idea for a story
· Writers get ideas for writing from reading other books
· Writers learn from their mentor authors
· Writers make decisions about topic and genre
· Writers need to be observers of the world
· Writers  are storytellers, so talk is critical to writing
· Writers can write anywhere they choose
· Writers are collectors which is why a notebook is important to them
· Writers share their discoveries with other writers
· Writers choose topics close to their hearts
· Writers choose small topics/ small moments
· Writers choose ideas that matter enough to write a lot about it
· Writers know that writing what we know, think, feel or wonder about a topic helps us discover the heart of the subject
· Writers often rehearse their lead sentences before writing them down
· Writers use pictures to help tell their stories
· Writers can add words below their pictures or to the text they have already written
· Writers can add labels to their pictures
· Writers can add to pieces of writing they have worked on previously
· Writers spell lots of words by saying them slowly and writing the sounds they hear.
· Writers can be brave when it comes to unfamiliar words by attempting them before seeking help
· Writers use details from their stories to plan their illustrations
· Writers often think about and rehearse their stories before they begin writing
· Writers reread their writing when they think they are finished
· Writing takes many forms –books, cards, songs, signs, instructions, letters, poems
· Writers understand that dialogue can bring a story to life
· Writers try to create endings that satisfy readers
· Writers revise to improve the content of their writing
· Writers edit to improve the flow of words and the surface features of the writing
· Writers are always aware of the needs of their audience (readers)
· Writers make lots of decisions when publishing their writing
· Writers make decisions about how and where they will share their writing
· Writers use a variety of sentences in their writing
  Writers reread old notebook entries to find new ideas
  Writers Read!
· Writers need to build their stamina just as readers do

I am so pleased to see these matters being presented, discussed and unpacked as part of the writing programs in schools. When teachers see such things as important they teach more mindfully and explicitly. Such matters are part of a concerted move towards making writing an authentic experience for the developing writer.


  1. A great post Alan, again I was running training for some of my staff today and we were unpacking many of these very ideas in order to raise the joy and enthusiasm around writing with our children. Thanks for your wisdom!

  2. Thanks Sally. It is pleasing that in your work you are experiencing similar conversations around the teaching of writing. The notion of joy and enthusiasm connected to writing are well worth our collective efforts.


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