We Are The Authors: Publishing Decisions

personal narratives

Decisions, decisions! As the time came to bring personal narrative writing to a close in my third grade classroom, I was faced with many decisions about how we would go about publishing our pieces.  There are so many possibilities and ways to publish!  Here are some of the questions I asked myself as we prepared to publish:

  • Should students handwrite or type their published pieces?
  • Should published pieces be error-free?
  • Where should the pieces be published?
  • Should I include my demonstration piece as part of the celebration?
  • Who should be the audience as students share their pieces?
  • How will I communicate students’ progress to their parents?
  • How can I use this piece of writing to help students with their next piece of writing?
  • How can I utilize some of these pieces to help me teach personal narrative next year and beyond?

In no way am I saying what I decided is the only way or the best way for every classroom to consider publishing.  In this particular year, at this particular time, these are the decisions I made:

  • Students typed their published pieces.  They began by brainstorming in their notebooks and then drafted on paper, eventually typing the personal narratives.  I wanted to introduce my students to using Google Docs and this was the perfect opportunity to do so! Interesting to note, some students left out really excellent parts of their drafts when typing.  I was surprised that some students found typing hard and it took them a long time to work on their piece.  Many students easily took to Google Docs, which opens up new opportunities for our writing in the coming months.


  • Published pieces were error free: This was a hard decision. Last year, I would have said, “No way- publish work as is.” I used to feel that polishing conventions and spelling was changing the student’s work and perhaps giving a false impression of where the writer stands proficiency-wise.  This year, after reading Learning from Classmates by Lisa Eickholdt, I didn’t let conventions and spelling errors blind me to the brilliance and beauty that existed in many students’ pieces.  I felt that errors with conventions and misspellings would take away from the message the students were writing. In the end, after students revised, edited, and typed their work, there were still “errors.” I printed out their work, then edited it to create paragraphs, fix spelling, and add missing punctuation.  When assessing their writing, I used their final typed piece, before my edits.  For our publication, the polished piece was used.


  • A book for all students: I assembled the students’ work into a book, entitled We Are The Authors! Students also illustrated their writing and we hung it on a class bulletin board.  I decided that having a book with everyone’s writing would feel special and be a nice keepsake of the work the class did during this unit.


  • Publishing my piece: Throughout the unit, I modeled writing about something that happened to me last Christmas.  Students saw me brainstorm, draft, and revise this piece. I wasn’t sure if I should include it in the class book, but I decided I would since students hadn’t seen the finished product.  It was important for me that students saw me as a fellow writer, going through the process too, so in the end I decided to share my piece.


  • A small audience: Initially, I planned on inviting families to our publishing celebration.  As the time drew closer and we weren’t finished editing, I worried that having parents attend might put extra pressure on the last few days of polishing the pieces.  With Thanksgiving on the horizon, I decided to keep it simple and have students celebrate their writing with each other only in the classroom.  I made comment slips and wrote each student’s name on two slips of paper. I gave out the slips to different students. Everyone was asked to read two classmates’ stories and write positive comments specific about the writing. Then, we sat in a circle and students shared some of the comments they received.  We celebrated as a group the fact that some students had funny lines of dialogue and others used interesting words or painted a picture with a comparison.

pn comment


  • Communicating progress: I created a checklist of the elements of personal narrative that I had taught into and hoped to see in the writing.  I used the students’ final typed version, before my edits, for this assessment.  Parents who wish to see the unedited version were welcome to ask for their child’s writing.


  • Informing instruction?: Earlier in the year, I wrote about using a whole class checklist to assess the on-demand piece and plan for minilessons, small groups, and 1 on 1 conferences.  I created a new version for this personal narrative piece, which I can use to help plan my lessons going forward.

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learning from classmates

  • Thinking ahead: If you think I mention Lisa Eickholdt’s book Learning from Classmates often, you are right! I do! It really influenced my thinking about student work and mentor text.  Lisa describes how you can notice, name, and note what students are doing as writers that might help other students in the same genre.  I plan on creating notes for some of the personal narratives my students wrote this year to help me in the future. One student used beautiful sensory details, another had a tight focus throughout the piece, and others used dialogue effectively.  I now have student mentor text that I can use to illustrate these techniques.

cupcakes pn

We ended our celebration with cupcakes.  There was a sweetness to the whole day, seeing students feel proud of what they wrote and really reading and responding to others’ work, too.  Classroom teachers have so many decisions to make, moment to moment, each day.  These decisions felt right to me, for this class, at this time.  What decisions have you made around publishing your students’ work? Please share in the comments!


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