Publishing Writing During the First Weeks of School
My fourth graders and I just finished the fourth week of school, and we celebrated their first pieces of published writing on Friday. Some teachers might argue this isn’t enough time to complete a unit, but I would suggest otherwise. Publishing early helps students understand the purpose of practice, the goal of the writing process, and the importance of sharing our work.
In our classroom, writer’s notebooks hold all of our writing practice. These are places the students can explore ideas and practice new skills learned during our mini-lessons. This practice helps students to grow and improve as writers. However, sometimes the students struggle to see the value in this. Having them take a seed from their writer’s notebooks and grow it into a published piece helps to give relevance to the work we do in our notebooks. When we return to working in these notebook next week, the students motivation to put forth a strong effort will increase.
Our first unit also defines the entire writing process for students. Students see the differences between pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. They understand why I don’t want them worried about spelling during the drafting stage (we’ll take care of that during editing) and why they shouldn’t play with fonts while revising (that comes when we publish). They also see the purpose of various pre-writing activities.
Finally, publishing teaches students the idea of an audience. Incoming fourth graders almost universally see writing as a school thing they do just for teachers to read. We want young writers to broaden this definition, sharing their work with other students, parents, and the world. Showing students this early in the year brings dividends later in the year. The idea that our writing will be seen by many people increases student motivation and effort. Here are my students sharing their work with another class:
You might be thinking, “My students aren’t ready,” or “Their writing isn’t good enough to publish.” You’re probably worried that their first published pieces won’t be “good enough.” My advice? Stop worrying about this! If you can get a published piece finished early in the year, you’ll see the benefits to students for the rest of the year. Good luck!