Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reviving Four Blocks: Writing

This post is the third in a series I've begun about the Four Blocks Literacy Model. (If you've missed the other two, you can click HERE to view them). If you're not familiar with the framework, the literacy model is broken into four blocks: Self-Selected Reading, Working with Words, Guided Reading, and Writing. The basic idea is that to have a balanced literacy approach, you should include each of the four blocks every day.  So, now on to the Writing  block....

What is it?
This block is all about students spending time writing. This is basically your writing workshop or work on writing (daily 5). This block is easily multilevel and differentiated because students are often choosing what to write about. But, even if they aren't choosing, students write at their own level. And what's great about this block is that you can use students' writing to help them become better readers. Most children can read their own writing, even if they struggle with reading books. You can use this path as a bridge to help students.

Structure of the block:

  • Minilesson: This is a time of teacher modeling. I literally write for and with students as they watch, thinking aloud as I go. The minilesson topic might be on generating topics to write about, editing my writing, using strong verbs, thinking of a catchy title, strategies for spelling words, or any number of things. The point is that the teacher writes as a model every single day. I can't stress to you how important it is for your kiddos to see you writing. If you haven't done this before and are a little wary, just jump right in! I promise you, if you get stuck, your kiddos have tons of ideas that they'll want you to include in your writing. At the end of each modeled writing, the teacher models rereading to edit and revise with student help. They love to catch your "mistakes." 
  • Student Writing: Students write on self-selected topics. Occasionally I give students a topic to write about because I like to use a balanced approach, but generally they choose their own. Just as in self-selected reading, this is the time when the teacher can conference with individuals (over the shoulder conferences) or pull a small group to work on a specific skill.
  • Sharing: This is a major part of the writing block. Take this away and you'll see students' desires to write begin to dwindle. I usually have about 5 minutes at the end of the block for sharing and let about 4 students share. I never force them to share, but each student is assigned a day of the week as their sharing day. If something crazy happens and we're running out of time, I will occasionally tell students to share their writing with a few friends. It's a smaller audience, but more children can share. I also try to give specific feedback, such as, "I like the way you used dialogue when you're characters talked to each other," or "Nice grabber at the beginning! That really wanted me to keep reading!" rather than, "Good job!" 
What I love about it:
For one thing, since I love to write, I especially enjoy the chance to write for and with my kiddos. I also really enjoy reading my students' writing and conversing with them one on one. Sometimes its really surprising to read some of the things they come up with. And of course the sharing is such a great way to build community! 

How about you? What does Writing look like in your classroom? Do you love it? Hate it? I'd love to hear from you :)


  1. I like the idea of assigning a day to share. Otherwise always the same kids sharing.

    The Idea Backpack

  2. I agree with you that most kids love to share what they have written. Last year I found some great inspiration on Pinterest to create some photo writing prompts. I used it once a week and they loved it. The only part I don't like about writing is assessment. It is sometimes an overhwhelming task. Maybe you could share what you do to assess student writing.

  3. I am a strong believer of balanced literacy!! It is powerful if done correctly.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Always A Lesson

  4. Good idea, Julie! I'll do that when I get back home from the beach because I've got a form I made on my external hard drive.



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