Let's imagine that you are sitting in a faculty or grade-level meeting, and have an idea you would like to share. What happens next? Do you just start sharing, freely telling everyone your thoughts? Or do you sit anxiously, trying to decide whether or not you will speak up?
If you do feel comfortable sharing with your peers, what do you think has allowed that comfort? If you do not feel comfortable, what do you feel is the reason for the discomfort?
Feeling safe in your community is an such an important part of collaboration and learning, for us as well as for our students. When students do not feel safe and comfortable in their classroom, they will be hesitant not only to share their ideas or writing, but may also even feel insecure in writing anything at all.
Many teachers share their students' struggles with writing. They include gathering of ideas, feeling insecure about writing, writing volume and engagement. Creating a community of writers will help to combat those struggles, and allow students a space for letting their writing shine!
Here are three ways to create a writing community in your classroom.
1. Get to Know Each Other
Think back to that faculty meeting and feeling ready to share your thoughts. If you are comfortable doing so, it is most likely because you have a relationship with your peers. Whether you have worked together for many years, share stories at lunch time, or have participated in various ice-breakers, you know things about one another. This connection helps to make you feel safe and secure. Allowing students time to get to know one another other will develop security for them as well.
In primary grades, students can share things about family, hobbies, favorite things, etc. In upper grades, students may share those listed above, as well as about their family and culture, character traits and strengths, and hopes for the future.
Remember that you are also a part of this writing community, and students want to get to know you as well! When students feel secure in your relationship them, they will be much more willing to share a part of themselves with you. It also builds trust, and that will go a long way in your work together!
2. Establish a Culture of Encouragement
Imagine if your leaders and peers generously doled out compliments and words of appreciation. If you have that type of community in your school, I would love to work with you! If not, perhaps you can get it started!
Each of the members of your classroom writing community should be sources of encouragement! You and your students should take time to compliment and encourage one another often. Peer collaboration, share time, conferences and small groups are perfect opportunities to celebrate writers and cheer them on! Even independent writing time can be paused for a celebration, whether it be for one student or the entire class. We all need to be given that boost of confidence that moves us forward!
3. Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate!
What is a community without collaboration? Students need to be able to work independently, but collaborating with peers provides the support and inspiration to make their independent time more productive and successful! Collaboration is of course a large part of the first two ways of creating a writing community, but is also provides other benefits.
The time spent talking with peers about their writing in each stage of the writing process allows for several opportunities to solidify, inspire and sustain learning. First, when students talk about their writing, they process their own learning. We have all talked ourselves through a problem or said our sentence out loud before writing it down!! Second, when students hear their peers talk about their own writing, they get new ideas as well as hear how other students think about a concept, or use language. Finally, students have a chance to put academic language into use. (Mulvahill 2018)
Let's create a writing community for our students where they feel safe, known, and encouraged and where they are able to GROW as WRITERS!