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Letting Them Teach Me

I’m sorry, I just realized I missed a blog post last Wednesday. Yes, I know it’s been nearly a week, but the truth is I just realized it. Oops.

So on to the post…

I am so excited to be in a third grade writing workshop. A colleague has agreed to let me experiment a little and really learn about the transition from writing drafts that include both pictures and words to writing drafts with only words. This transition seems to happen around ages 8-9.

I’ve never really spent the time watching this process. I’ve forced it. I’ve given lessons about writing on draft paper. I’ve created lots of paper templates to help scaffold young writers to move into writing drafts with only words. However, until this year I’ve not really watched young writers make the transition naturally. I really want to see the organic way children grow into the kind of writers who draft mostly with words.

So we launched writing workshop in this third grade class with an invitation for children to write books. We put a stack of blank paper in the writing center and let them have at. We held our breath and watched. After a few days what we saw emerging were writing plans.

Some writers used a blank page and made sketches of things that would be in the book. Others wrote a list of ideas. There were table of contents popping up around the room. They were making plans.

I taught into their work last Friday with this teaching point: Writers think about the entire book from beginning to end. This was a shift of thinking for many of the third grade writers. As primary writers they made a page and then asked themselves “Then what?” Now as they are maturing, we are nudging them to consider the whole text. As they think through the entire book, they are becoming the kind of writers who plan ahead. They are envisioning their stories and imagining the possibilities.

I’m beginning to understand a large part of moving from drafting with pictures and words to drafting with only words has to do with envisioning and planning. The stronger sense we have of a story the easier it is to draft it with words. This week I’m planning to help students strengthen their envisioning muscles, as well as introduce them to storyboards. Storyboards are a great tool for envisioning, as well as a very natural bridge into drafting without pictures.


drafting, plan, process

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

5 thoughts on “Letting Them Teach Me Leave a comment

  1. I love to talk with kids about their books when the paper is still blank. Kids will touch the blank page and talk through each part. Making books is also a wonderful approach for struggling writers who may be reluctant to get much on paper. For some kids, it seems like creating a book is less daunting than trying to fill a single piece of lined paper. I’m looking forward to hearing how you use the story boards and how you transition kids to drafting without pictures. Very cool!


  2. Ruth-have tried several times to comment on your other site-either it’s my computer or something is down with the comment widget. You sound so patient with the writing, and I wish you the best in that. One of these days, I imagine you will have your story, and then those 1000 words will be so, so easy!


  3. Question: When do children switch from pictures to words comfortably/naturally? Since I’ve been working with ages 2/1/2 to 6, I need some guidelines. I notice some already want words or letters attached to their pictures. They are all enjoying their writers notebooks at this very young age!


  4. Yes, envisioning will continue to use pictures and so will the storyboards. However, I’m beginning to see how those pictures will be in their writer’s notebooks instead of in the drafts. At least that’s how I’m imagining it to be. I’m starting to see what a significant shift this is for our young writers and I’m anxious to help them slide into “traditional” drafts (ie: lined paper or word docs) in a sleek way.


  5. I like the open-endedness of this beginning, the stacks of paper and the invitation to write books. I see that you didn’t hurry, just let the process unfold. It must have been delightful watching the students! Envisioning will sometimes need pictures again, won’t it, especially with the storyboards, yet it will help students see the whole picture instead of just the next page. Can’t wait to see how you do that next step.


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