As a literacy specialist, I know charts created alongside students are the most effective learning tools. Just as the co-creation of charts makes learning stickier, the same can be said about personal learning tools for students. A writing tool created with or BY a child is more effective than a teacher-created tool that’s handed to a student.
When quarantine schooling started in mid-March, I just wanted to get my third grade daughter, Isabelle, to write daily and to enjoy doing it. I threw some best practices out of the window for the sake of building her volume. Therefore, when it came to creating an editing checklist, I found myself doing the typing and eventually the writing and illustrating of the chart. Despite going through the items on her checklist dutifully every time she finished a piece of writing, there was part of me that felt like Isabelle didn’t “own” her personal editing checklist.
When we transitioned from poetry back to prose, I encouraged Isabelle to take what she had learned about editing to create a new editing checklist. I encouraged her to look at her previous editing checklists, to think about things she had been working on as a writer. Next, I encouraged her to create a new editing checklist. First, she began jotting ideas in her notebook. Once she got her ideas down, I asked her to whittle the list from six to four things. Isabelle refused since she asserted she had several things she needed to work on during her editing minute. Rather than argue, I encouraged Isabelle to make a clean, out-of-the-notebook copy of her checklist to keep in her writing folder. Here’s her final editing checklist:
A few days later, Isabelle realized she needed a cheat sheet of transitions to help her vary the way she started her sentences since she was trying to eradicate the words and and so at the beginning of her sentences. We chatted about possibilities. Then, Isabelle wrote down the words and short phrases she liked.
As this unprecedented school year comes to a close, you may be wondering how you can help keep writing alive for kids as they transition into summer break. (For inspiration, check out Therapi Zaw-Kaplan’s “Journal Writing Strategies While Living Through a Pandemic” and Melanie Meehan’s “Some Summer Writing Motivation,” both of which were published here on TWT last week.) If you have the capacity to help kids use some of the tools you’ve created with them — during in-person and/or remote instruction — then start thinking about which one(s) might help each child when they write independently this summer.
In terms of roll-out, if you record lessons for your students, consider a full-class minilesson on self-creating tools for independent writing. If you meet with your class via Zoom, you might talk with them about this as a group and ask how you can support students with this work during a class check-in. Similarly, you can have a 1:1 writing conference or small group lesson via video chat with a student or groups of students who might benefit from self-creating a tool or two for use this summer. If time doesn’t permit for any of those, a written invitation to students to transform a writing tool can be sent via e-mail or Seesaw message.
If you’re anything like I was back in mid-March, you’ll be satisfied if your students JUST WRITE this summer. However, for the students who are ready to do more than just write, we can provide them with a nudge to transform tools they’ve leaned on this year into independent teachers for the summertime when they’re on their own as writers.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).