National Writing Project

Growing Writers: Considering Talk, Time, Models, and Purpose

By: Renee Webster
Date: April 2008

Summary: In this chapter from Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work, Renee Webster, who is with the Red Cedar Writing Project, describes how she supplements her first grade writing workshop by using the text of picture books to provide models of techniques—such as "sound words"—that students integrate into their writing.


Excerpt from Chapter

Modeling for my young students how to read as a writer spilled into all their writing. For example, a favorite mentor text was Marla Frazee's picture book, Roller Coaster. While reading this book, students pointed out how her line breaks, punctuation, and her word placements added to their enjoyment of the story. They were excited to see how she used dashes to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out a word and slow down the reading. They all wanted to try using sound words like her "Clickity, Clackity, Clickity, clackity" ... of the roller coaster climbing up the ride. Even more they loved the ellipses ... her suspenseful pauses, and could not wait to try them out in their stories.

Marla Frazee had shown my students that a writer punctuates in a certain way ... so that the reader reads the story in the way that the author intends it to be read. It was after our study of Roller Coaster that punctuation became important to my first and second graders, leaving the editing section of the writing process, becoming part of how they revised their writing for meaning and audience. My first and second graders took control of punctuating their stories with new purpose, as they had their audience in mind, as illustrated in Conrad and Bryan's pieces.

Copyright © 2008. Reprinted by permission of Michigan Reading Association.
Webster, Renee. 2007. "Growing Writers: Considering Talk, Time, Models, and Purpose." In Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work, edited by Cynthia Clingman and Antonio Tendero, 11–15. Grand Rapids, MI: Michigan Reading Association.

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