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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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9 thoughts on “We Are The Authors: Publishing Decisions

  1. I have questioned with what to do about publishing our writing every year. I always struggle with the questions that you mentioned in your post in regards to what to publishing should look like. Should their final writing be hand-written or typed? Should we share our pieces with classmates or other classes? I have changed it up based on the group of kids that are in my class and based on the type of writing, but I always have some sort of publishing celebration (which isn’t the case often in 5th grade in my current school).
    I have never invited parents to our publishing parties because I also worry about the pressure to finishing out writing. I have invited other teachers, and had students read in front of other classes. It’s easier to change the official celebration time this way. In the classroom celebrations, I have always split students into small groups where they share their pieces, comment on each other’s writing, and celebrate their accomplishments.
    The idea of giving comment slips to students is one that I am going to implement. We have worked hard to be specific with our comments when we are peer editing, and I think it would be beneficial to also be specific about what we appreciated in each other’s writing during our publishing party. Last year I worked in a school that had 1:1 ipads, and we used the app Aurasma to share our writing. Students taped themselves reading their writing, and left comment sheets next to their typed papers (that I printed out). We rotated through, so that we could listen to classmates reading their pieces (from their taped piece) and write a positive comment about their piece. It was so much fun!
    I am going to check out Lisa Eickholdt’s book that was mentioned, Learning from Classmates because I am always looking for ways to improve my writing instruction. Thank you for affirming what I am doing, and giving me some great ideas to use for our next publishing party!


    1. Heidi, I love the idea of listening to a classmate read his/her story aloud! I want to incorporate that idea in the future and I’ll have to check out Aurasma. Lisa’s book had really helped me see the potential for student work to be mentor texts and I highly recommend it! Thanks so much for your comment and sharing the questions you’ve also faced when it comes to publishing. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.


      1. Yes, reading their writing out to others is a great way of instilling the purpose of writing too. Asking kids why they write is a good way to start the discussion about writing for an audience! My class has Authors Chair at the end of writing time, which can be anyone who wants to share their writing or someone who the teacher feels has a great example of the learning intention of the lesson. The class then has a discussion about the positive features that have been shared. Storybird.com is another great way to publish writing, as the kids can actually make a book which can be shared with others.


  2. Sounds like you do an amazing job with your personal narratives Leigh! I like the idea of commenting through Google Doc! I also love how you create the rubric together. Great ideas.


  3. I really appreciated this post. It was affirming to see some of the same questions you asked, I have asked myself with my middle school students. I also have included my work in our published piece. I bind it and put it in a book in our classroom library. It is at times tricky to get that authentic audience. We have given our work to a different middle school for feedback, which my kids really loved. I really liked the idea of grading the final typed piece and keeping that separate from the published piece. Great post!


    1. Thanks Heather! I really appreciate your comment! As a classroom teacher, we can feel really alone in our choices and decisions and it’s nice to share with each other and hear how other teachers answer these questions. I am glad the post was affirming!


    1. It was a tough one! It was a real mindset shift for me, but I’m glad I’m not alone in making that call. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the most accomplished writers still have editors. It’s okay to edit our student’s work so their message can be understood, as long as parents understand and see the student’s unedited work as well at some point. (In my opinion…)


  4. Fantastic account of your writing lesson, thank you. My class also do a paper plan but then type on google docs. They have a writing partner and they share their writing to their partner on Google docs and they leave a positive comment and a next step comment. They love sharing! I also use exemplars before writing and ask the kids to highlight or list the good features they can see – we unpack good writing and create a rubric together before we start writing. Best of luck for the competition.


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