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 writer’s workshop. 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

  • Do you build safe, caring, positive, passionate and social environments in which to write?
  • Do you ensure children in your class identify themselves as writers rather than as children who are simply schooled in producing writing products?
  • 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?
  • Do you encourage children to bring their own ‘funds of knowledge’ into the classroom?
  • Do you encourage children to write at home and for them to share it with the class community?
  • Do you use communities and the real-world outside the classroom to support writing undertaken inside school?
  • Do children see themselves as participants in determining class writing projects as opposed to passive recipients?
  • Are your children involved in actions, discussions and reflections that make a difference to how they are taught and undertake their writing?
  • 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

Supporting document

Suggested further reading

  • Atwell, N., (2014) In the middle, USA: Heinemann
  • Calkins, L. (1998) The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
  • Chamberlain, L., (2018)(2nd Ed) Inspiring Writing in Primary School, London: SAGE
  • Cremin, T., Myhill, D., (2012) Creating Communities Of Writers London: Routledge
  • Fletcher, R., (2001) Writing workshop: the essential guide, USA: Heinemann
  • Grainger (Cremin), T., Goouch, K., & Lambirth, A., (2005) Creativity and Writing: Developing voice and verve in the classroom London: Routledge
  • Graves, D., (1991) Build A Literate Classroom USA: Heinemann
  • Harwayne, S., (2001) Writing Through Childhood: Rethinking Process and Product, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
  • Loane, G., (2016) Developing young writers in the classroom: I’ve got something to say, London: Routledge
  • National Writing Project (2011) Ten rights of the writer
  • Shubitz, S., Dorfman (2019) Welcome to Writing Workshop: Engaging today’s students with a model that works USA: Stenhouse Press
  • Smith, F., (1988)  Joining the literacy club Heinemann: Oxford
  • Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • White, C., (2000) Strategies are not enough: the importance of classroom culture in teaching writing Education 3-13, 28(1), 16-21
  • Wray, D., Beard, R., Raban, B., Hall, N., Bloom, W., Robinson, A., Potter, F., Sands, H., Yates, I., (1988) Developing Children’s Writing, Leamington Spa: Scholastic

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