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It is Throwback Week on Two Writing Teachers! Every day this week we will throw it back to one of our favorite posts from our archives.  This gives our readers the chance to revisit some of our older posts and to catch up on posts you may have missed the first time.

I love this post by Dana,  in which she takes us into an extraordinary first grade classroom.  Here, Mrs. B. demonstrates two great teaching moves:

  1. Our students need to be systematically nudged towards  independence, which means revising and reimagining the tools we create to support them.
  2. The best mentor texts are often our students’ own work, and crafting visual representations of student work to display in our classrooms is wise and meaningful work.

Dana’s post nudged me towards being more intentional about both moves in my own sixth grade classroom.  I know that you will find the same to be true for you, as well, no matter what grade you teach.


“I’m done, Mrs. B.!” a student exclaimed as he tugged on Mrs. B.’s shirt.  Mrs. B. and I glanced at each other with a plea in our eyes.  It is May, and these first graders should know the routine, shouldn’t they?  Writers are never done, we’ve told them. Read your book to your partner, we’ve advised.  Start a new book, we’ve reminded.  Mrs. B. knew it was time to revisit the routines of writer’s workshop, so she constructed a fresh chart with the help of her first graders.

Mrs. B. expects her students to turn in their finished book and start a new book right away.  In this way, they keep the writing cycle continuously moving. That’s not all though.  Mrs. B. also wants her students to:

  • make a first-grade attempt at revising and editing
  • share their work with their partner
  • talk about their work as writers

Initially, Mrs. B. and her students simply listed the steps a writer should take when they are “done” :

Click to enlarge

We soon discovered, however, this chart was not user-friendly enough for the first graders.  There were too many steps, and some of the students couldn’t read all the words.  Mrs. B. and I met to revise the chart.  We wanted to keep the essence of it intact, but we knew we had to consolidate the steps and add pictures.  Here is the revised chart:

Click to enlarge

What I love most about this chart is the second step: Read my book to my partner and say 3 writing moves.  I wish everyone could spend time in Mrs. B.’s room listening to her first graders talk like writers.  Through her exquisite minilessons and conferences, the kids have learned to talk about their writing.  It is a wonderful thing to witness.

Here are two example of writing moves shared by Mrs. B.’s student.  In this example, the student added on to his writing.

How strong is a wolf?  It is very strong with a whole pack.  It is powerful because it surrounds a mouse and then they eat it.

This example shows how the student used a bold word.

They look like a dog and people thing they look like a husky.

I will think of this chart as I am coaching other teachers.  This chart captured high expectations, was simple to read, had picture cues, and contained examples.

Tara Smith View All

I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.

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