Watching Writers


#sol19- May 21, 2019

“Today, you are going to work on your end of year writing assessment. This is your chance to show your fourth grade teacher what a strong writer you are. You are going to write a small moment narrative. You will have 10 minutes to plan, 45 minutes to write, and then another five minutes to finish revising and editing. It will all be done before recess.  What makes a strong narrative?”

It is that time of year- end of year assessments. Although I feel for my students having to do them (writing, math, and reading) it does give me time to making careful observations. Yesterday was their writing, which happened to be a small moment for the third graders. We are currently in the midst of a poetry unit, so I wondered what their small moment writing would look like. We have not focused on narrative recently, so I was a bit worried- I knew the six who had sliced all April had recent practice, but what I should have considered was all the free choice writing they all have been doing. Every day after lunch we have 10-15 minutes of “quiet time” where they can choose whatever they want to do silently. Every Friday we have “Free Choice Friday” where they can choose their own reading and writing (not having to stick to whatever we are currently studying).

But, wow! After spending a few minutes reviewing what they considered to be the qualities of good narrative writing they were off to plan. Their planning was as unique as they are as writers. I saw timelines, storyboards, webs, and more. I read small moments that had happened as recently as the day before and others from years ago. I saw writers coming together to rehearse ideas. Some writers grabbed a dictionary or thesaurus, others consulted their personal word wall. All wrote for at least 30 minutes (when I think of the first writing of the year when some petered out after about five minutes…). I saw strong leads, paragraphs, dialogue, evidence of revision and editing, endings that left readers thinking, and more. While I have not had time to “check” them against the rubric I have seen all that I really need to- these writers have made so much progress and I could not be more proud of them. They are really living writerly lives and it shows!

A happy teacher here!

3 thoughts on “Watching Writers

  1. Like you, I wish the observing didn’t have to happen during an assessment but yay for your kiddos for using all they know about being writers to create these pieces. Your beginning with dialog got me right into the scene and I had all those feelings about an assessment moment.

  2. I love that you value the process and even spelled it out for them. “You will have 10 minutes to plan, 45 minutes to write, and then another five minutes to finish revising and editing.” And observing. Of course, I’ve made a form for that because I really want to focus my observations. Does everyone keep writing? I know “staring off into space” can be productive, but at want point does the student get off track . . . and when do they pull it back together.

    Can’t wait for you to consider their growth!<3

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