Writing is the skill that develops last in the child’s repertoire of language arts skills and is a highly complex, multi-step process. Effective writing is the tie that relates what one is thinking to the spoken word and writing helps us organize and integrate learning.
Children's writing develops most effectively when they are engaged in a variety of purposeful language tasks. In order to facilitate that growth, teachers plan predictable learning environments where children are given time, choices and can respond thoughtfully to a prompt or idea. As with reading, writing is best taught using a balanced approach. This approach includes modeled, shared, guided and independent writing.
Modeled writing is an important part of teaching students to write. Young writers need writing models. These can include favorite authors, teachers, parents and other student writers. Teachers teach writing by modeling the process and by sharing their finished products with students. Another way teachers model writing in the classroom is by writing in front of students and talking through the process as they write.
During shared writing, the teacher composes collaboratively with students. The teacher's role is an enabling, supportive one that encourages students to participate in the process. In this approach the students are actively involved with the teacher in the thinking and decision making processes of writing. Shared writing is often a natural response to shared reading.
The teacher's role in guided writing is to guide students, respond to them and extend their thinking. Guided writing takes place in a format commonly referred to as writers' workshops where children have time to write, the teacher is available for conferencing, and there are opportunities for choice and decision making. The majority of student writing in school is guided writing. The goal is to lead students toward independence in writing.
In independent writing, students take responsibility for writing without teacher intervention. The purpose of this writing is to build fluency, make personal connections, promote critical thinking and use writing as a natural, self selected activity. Independent writing experiences may include journal writing, responding in learning logs and free writing.
In kindergarten, students are, generally, emergent writers who need time to explore the writing process. These students are beginning to understand that anything that is said can be represented in print form. First writing attempts are often pictures with captions that students may dictate to an adult. Students in first grade are, generally, beginning writers who enjoy writing in a range of contexts. These students are becoming more competent in their ability to write recognizable text. They are also still using many illustrations as part of their writing, just as the texts that they are reading contain many pictures that they can rely on for clues about the author’s meaning. Students in second grade are, generally, developing writers. They are familiar with most aspects of the writing process. As children progress toward independence in their writing, they are also beginning to master the ‘manners’ of writing: correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. However, the major focus of all writing instruction at every grade level continues to be organization, attention to details, varied language and sentence structure and writing for a specific purpose.
Children learn to walk and talk at different times and reach developmental milestones at different times. This is also true with learning to read and write. All children will master the basics and will reach levels of competency in stages. We refer to these stages of learning in our curriculum as the continuum of K-3 literacy learning. The grade levels are illustrative only, as young children develop writing abilities at differing times and in differing ways. We believe that each child has the right to be instructed at his/her developmental level as he/she grows along the K-3 continuum.