“Writing is a social act. People write to affect the lives of others.” –Donald Graves
Children need to share their writing with others. In a traditional Writing Workshop format, sharing is done at the end of each workshop session. Often one to three children take turns sitting in an “author’s chair” to read a selection or a short (1-2 page) piece to the entire class. At other times children share in small groups or in pairs. Sharing is always voluntary.
After a reading, the child author calls on listeners to respond to his piece. So that the responses a child receives are the kind of responses that will help move a piece forward, Graves, A Fresh Look at Writing pg. 136, suggests teaching students how to listen and respond:
- “John is going to read a short selection. During his reading our job is to listen so well, that when he finishes we’ll see how much we can remember. Authors need to know what their audiences can remember. See how much of his actual words you can remember. Next, we’ll comment on what strikes us in the piece. Finally, you can ask questions of John to learn still more about his piece.” (With younger children you may just focus on the remembering and introduce other procedures later on.)
- John reads a short selection from his piece. (I try to limit the reading time to no more than five minutes)
- John calls on the other children who raise their hands to report (1) what they remember; (2) what strikes them; (3) questions they wish to ask
Some teachers find it helpful to ask responding children to begin comments with “I” rather than “you,” and to avoid using the word “should.” (Ex. “I heard….” “I think…” I wondered…” I didn’t understand…”) “I” language makes it clear that the responding child is expressing an opinion (which the author can either accept or reject).
The child author needs to hear as specifically as possible what strikes his listeners. Encourage responders to quote words and phrases as much as possible through your own modeling. “I like your story,” is too vague to help a writer. But “I especially liked the part about the horse ride when you write how you ‘bounced up and down in the saddle’ when your horse began to gallop,” tells the writer exactly what “worked” in his writing.
When your class is practiced at sharing, Graves ( pp. 137-138) suggests broadening the content of the share sessions, asking children to share the new things they are trying in their writing, perhaps things that you have just taught in a mini-lesson. For example, you might ask Did anyone try a new form of punctuation today? or Did anyone experiment with something that didn’t work today? or Did anyone try writing a character description today?
Share sessions are not the only way writing can be shared, or course. Here are some other ways to share writing:
- Submit to writing contests or magazines that publish student work
- Contribute to class anthologies
- Make into a book to place in the school library
- Read at a school assembly
- Share with parents and siblings
- Read to children in other classes
- Display on a bulletin board
- Post to the internet (see Publication)
- Share as a play, puppet show, video, filmstrip, etc.
- Contribute to the school newsletter or local newspaper
- Send to a pen pal
- Read aloud at a class writing celebration
From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams www.suzanne-williams.com