Build a community of writers

The quality of writing in our classrooms grows more from the tone, values, and relationships of our classroom communities than from anything else.  – Lucy Calkins

Description of the principle

If we want to create life-long writers, then we need to teach children in an environment which reflects the way writers work. From the first we need to treat children as genuine writers, albeit apprentice ones. When writers see their teachers as positive, caring and interested in their lives, they are more likely to engage in writing at a high level of achievement. The classroom should feel like a creative writer’s workshop and a professional publishing house. The aim of a writing workshop is to create a community of writers, in which teachers write alongside children and share their own writing practices, and children are shown how to talk and present their writing to others in a positive and constructive way.

Children are also seen as participants in determining writing projects, as opposed to passive recipients of someone else’s choice. The community of writers take part in meaningful practices and writing projects they can identify with. Importantly, in a writing workshop, children are involved in actions, discussions and reflections that make a difference to how they are taught and undertake their writing.

What Writing For Pleasure teachers do

  • Children see their teachers as extraordinarily positive, caring, strict, fun, calm and interested in their lives and development as writers.
  • Their classrooms feel like a rich mixture of creative writers’ workshop but also had the sharp focus of a professional publishing house.
  • The teachers support and encourage children to bring and use their own ‘funds of knowledge’ into their writing projects, meaning that children can write from a position of strength.
  • Their classrooms are a shared and democratic space.
  • Their children talk of feeling confident and knowing that their teacher wants them to try their best, take their time and to focus specifically on making their written pieces the highest quality they could be for their future readership.

Reviewing your practice: questions to consider

  • How do you build safe, caring, positive, passionate and social environments in which to write?
  • How do you ensure children in your class identify themselves as writers rather than as children who are simply schooled in producing writing products?
  • How do you ensure children don’t carry the misconception that you can only be a writer if it’s your profession or only once you’re older?
  • How do you encourage children to bring their own ‘funds of knowledge’ into the classroom?
  • How do you encourage children to write at home and for them to share it with the class community?
  • How do you use communities and the real-world outside the classroom to support writing undertaken inside school?
  • How do children see themselves as participants in determining class writing projects as opposed to passive recipients?
  • How are your children involved in actions, discussions and reflections that make a difference to how they are taught and undertake their writing?
  • How do you spend time getting to know your pupils as writers including their attitudes towards writing?

Examples from the classroom

Creating Our Own Publishing Houses!

Writing Rivers

Sharing Our Perceptions Of Writing

To Be Continued…’ Writer-Teachers Connecting Classrooms

Writing with the family – sofa scribbling, duvet drafting & dinner-time dabbling!

Calling at the Writing Station

Having An Ideas Party & Taking A Writing Register With Year Four

Book-making In Nursery

Supporting resources

  • Our Children As Writers survey [LINK]
  • Our class writing projects – [LINK]
  • A QUICK guide to teaching writing in the EYFS [LINK]
  • A QUICK guide to teaching writing in KS1 [LINK]
  • Real-World Writers: A handbook for teaching writing with 7-11 year olds [LINK]

Suggested further reading

  • Young, R., (2022) The importance of a whole-school vision for writing [LINK]
  • Young, R., (2022) What sort of writing teacher are you? [LINK]
  • Young, R., (2021) The rights (and responsibilities) of the child writer [LINK]
  • Young, R., Birchall, L., (2021) Developing a sincere writing curriculum in KS1 [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2020) They won’t have anything to write about: the dangers of believing pupils are ‘culturally deprived’ [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2020) What makes children want to write? Teaching Reading & Writing 12 46-47 [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2020) UKLA Viewpoints: Writing Leicester: UKLA [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2020) What do I do when my class hates writing? [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2018) The sea of writing English 4-11 64 pp.17-20 [LINK]
Be reassuringly consistent

This chapter begins by looking at the parallels between an environmental approach to teaching writing and the building of a community of writers. Discussion is had on how it is possible to create a space where social and productive writing teaching can take place through what could be considered a contemporary writing workshop. The importance of teachers building writerly relationships is explored, as is the importance of getting to know young people as writers with existing identities. Next, the responsibility of the writer-teacher as a role model is considered, as are the affective domains of a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy. Finally, examples of effective practice from the classrooms of high-performing teachers are presented.

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How Real-World Writers works

This chapter discusses how to set up your classroom in preparation for teaching writing workshop. It lays out suggestions for classroom organisation and the resourcing of writing materials and children’s books. It also describes how to create a community of writers, prepare a writerly environment including working walls, and orientate your class in the first three weeks of the academic year. It makes suggestions on how to introduce children to personal writing notebooks and personal writing projects and how to conduct verbal feedback through pupil conferencing. Later, the chapter gives advice on how to discuss children’s rights and responsibilities as apprentice writers, how to design class and independent publishing houses, and finally how to choose a class charity which will give inspiration for writing during the academic year.

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