Writing and the Upper Elementary Grades:   

We Can Write ~ We’re Just Not Published Yet

Recently I shared my non-fiction book, Wild Ponies, with a group of third graders. When I entered the classroom, I noticed the teacher holding my book and talking to the students. They sat cross-legged on the carpet, listening. Immediately three hands shot up before I even removed my coat. Whispering ensued – Is that her? 

The children’s enthusiasm bubbled. Excited to share their knowledge on writing, several students revealed to me that they were writing a book. It just wasn’t published yet.*  Smiling, I thought – that’s exactly how writing is supposed to be for children. These children were writers and they confidently thought of themselves as writers.

Earlier in the school year, I worked with a different group of upper elementary students. I started the year by assessing their reading. I asked them to complete a mini survey on their literacy skills’ strengths and challenges. We then focused on their challenges over the next several weeks. As my time with the students came-to-a-close, I asked them again to reflect on their literacy skills, how they had grown, and what area they wished to tackle next. Their challenges now gone – those goals accomplished. Their wish:  to become better writers and spellers.

Thinking about the two different groups of students and their thoughts on writing, the third graders believed – We’re writers. They wrote daily. Their schedule built in writing time and sacredly held.  Meanwhile, the other group, now more confident in their reading skills, believed they could turn their attention more fully towards writing.  All writers are readers.

How we spend our time reveals what matters to us.

 * Peter Johnston’s book, Opening Minds, focuses on process and problem solving in learning to read. Our prompting may encourage or discourage students. Purposeful prompting leads to results. An example of prompting that acknowledges what a student knows yet is hopeful that what he/she doesn’t know, will be accomplished in the future. You may not know this yet but you will.