My basic thought: Capture each child at a personalized writing level, and they stay involved and move forward. Students at the easier levels will improve as they see how other students succeed.
To cover the range from totally dependent to totally independent writers, consider these ideas. I have used them.
- Two children of the same ability [Any ability!] work together. Having the same ability actually works because neither child can lean on or dominate the other. As they learn the writing process and how to enrich sentences with a partner, they gain confidence to develop their own work. Thinking together, they develop the skills to later work alone. (See the related blog ‘Young Writers: Enriching Sentences’ at trudicarterauthor.wordpress.com.)
- Purposefully seat children who want to copy from the board where it’s easy to see. This shows them that copying is allowed. Yes, some children may copy everything with no rhyme or reason. They are happy just to be writing! Over time, as they hear other children share, they will also ‘catch’ the writing process. Trust.
- Encourage enriching their sentences. Teach them about adding a descriptive word or a phrase. At the end of writing time, ask if anyone has enriched one of their sentences and will share.
- Be available to copy a sentence for the child laboring to write. For instance, write the introductory sentence for them, and let them choose, along with the teacher, which sentence they will copy next. This takes a lot of pressure off.
- Spelling. As they call out a word, write it on the board. (See blog, ‘Improve That Spelling’)
VIGNETTE. A fifth grade class was learning techniques to help others improve their writing. The students practiced giving suggestions with a piece the teacher had written. As time went on, they contributed their own writing. One girl held back. Her success in writing was low. After watching other children have their work improved by their classmates, she reached that day when her hand waved, and she said, “I want my story on the overhead. I want to hear what I can do to make it better.” Listening to her classmates’ ideas, finding out how the improvement process worked, she became willing to join in. (See blog Improve Writing with Student Critiquing )
Trust the learning process.