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You can make anything by writing.

C.S. Lewis

What We Understand About Writing

Children take their first steps towards writing very early in life. When a child draws a picture with a crayon she is sharing something important with an audience. She discovers her power as a writer.

Our goal is for students to not only understand how to write well, but to appreciate the value and importance of doing so. We want them to find joy in personal expression and to learn that writing can be a powerful tool to develop and express one’s thinking. But the ability to write formally does not happen naturally; without careful planning, encouragement, and instruction. For writers to leave elementary school equipped for the challenges of middle school, they must learn structure, form, craft, and convention. Their writing must be organized, focused, detailed, descriptive, and mechanically correct. With guidance and support from their teachers, students learn to produce clear and coherent writing that achieves its intended purpose and moves its audience.

How We Teach Writing

In Mamaroneck, writing instruction is multidimensional and aligned to the writing standards for New York State.

Writing begins with drawing and approximation of letters. Students are encouraged to share their stories and ideas by going to the page. Teachers nurture writing interests and intentions.

One aspect of our instruction focuses on structure. We teach children to hold a pencil and write letters properly. Children learn that letters represent sounds and letters can form words that carry specific meaning. We teach them that words can be joined together to form sentences. Eventually children write families of sentences that carry a central message in paragraph form.

Another aspect focuses on process. First we teach children that great writing is planned, and writers draft and revise and then edit their work for maximum effect. Students learn that the effectiveness of their writing improves when they move beyond first draft writing.

Additionally students learn about form and purpose. Student writers learn that their purpose (to inform, to entertain, to persuade) will determine the genre form their writing will take. They will learn from the study of well crafted writing that each genre has its own larger structure and organization, and they will have an opportunity to write within each form every year of elementary school.

Finally, students will learn about craft and convention. Using literary mentors they will learn what makes writing conventionally correct (mechanics, punctuation, capitalization, tense, syntax) and what makes writing creatively interesting (detail, description, voice and other craft techniques).

Students will acquire a writer’s toolkit full of understandings and skills that they can use to communicate effectively for a variety of purposes and audiences.

Teachers use shared writing and interactive writing, and, in small groups, guided writing, in order to model important writing behaviors and skills for their students. In this way, students have the opportunity to see these new skills used, and then to rehearse these skills with the support of the teacher. The writing workshop structure allows students to then initiate and then independently practice these new understandings in meaningful writing projects.

How We Measure Writing Progress

Learning to write is a fascinating developmental process. Children are unique; therefore not all students progress at the same rate and in the same way. Our primary goal in Mamaroneck is for every writer to make progress in each area of the writing curriculum each year. As the expectations across the year increase, this means that each child must show measurable growth over time.

To measure this growth, and to identify ongoing student-specific instruction, teachers use writing rubrics organized around key instructional elements: structure, process, form and purpose, craft and convention. The broader K-5 continuum can be used to identify the specific developmental progress of each writer, helping teachers tailor instruction to individual need.