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What is a writer in first grade?

allisonletts's picture

I had an amazing experience in my field placement on Friday. I'm in a charter school where the special ed program is primarily inclusive. I frequently work with a student named "Jeremy" who often struggles to stay with the lesson, especially in large group instruction. One specific behavior that can be disruptive is when he calls out in the middle of the lecture--it is frequent enough that his classmates are distracted and that it interrupts the flow of the lesson. Throughout my time at this school, the teacher and administrators have been working on various interventions for him, including a paycheck for good behavior, check-ins with the teacher after every subject, and "choice time" when he makes it through a lesson. On Friday during the Writing mini-lesson, when he started to interrupt, the teacher told him to get a piece of paper and write it down. He did! He makes so many connections to the material, and he wants to share it with everyone, but in the middle of the lecture is not the most appropriate time. By writing it down, he got to express himself without requiring anyone's immediate attention. He made it through the rest of the mini-lesson and worked productively and independently throughout Writer's Workshop, specifically answering the prompt from the mini-lesson using appropriate vocabulary and responding to the feedback I gave him.

So in first grade, what makes a writer? A child who can physically get pencil to paper quickly enough for writing to be worth it. A student who can either spell well enough for his audience or who has been encouraged to invent spellings. I wouldn't be surprised if Jeremy became a writer, simply because he is allowed to communicate more through writing than through speaking in class.

I would love to see Jeremy get a "Writer's Notebook" to keep all of his ideas--just a little reporter's notepad that could fit in his pocket. He could turn his quick thoughts into full stories and learn more about the connection between speaking, writing, and audience.

I guess I'm kind of wondering about whether this intervention could be effective long-term. It's pretty time consuming right now for Jeremy to write all of his thoughts on paper. Could typing be better? Is there a tech solution to this problem, or might tech just make it worse? This week, I'm going to talk with my teacher more about how this particular intervention came about, and how it might evolve throughout the rest of the semester.


alesnick's picture

first grade writers

That J. makes meaning and finds satisfaction (personal and as a group member) in writing to me qualifies him as a writer.  Also, his uptake of the opportunity the teacher gave him feels important.  So exciting!  Thanks for connecting so richly to our class discussion and bridging us out to your placement.

Riley's picture

This is great, Allison! I

This is great, Allison! I think the question of what a writer is is an important one here: I think it does depend on age and language abilities, perhaps, but to a certain extent, I know there's an element that links anybody who can consider him/herself a writer. The act of writing has to serve a purpose for the writer--fulfillment, expression, satisfaction as an art form or a means of communication. I think "Jeremy" gets this satisfaction from sifting through his thoughts in a way that doesn't stifle his precocious thought process. I think it's great to hear of someone so young finding fulfillment through writing in a way that many people many times his age do as shows how powerful it is, and the many ways it can be fulfilling.