Standards for Teachers of English Language and Literacy in Australia
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2.2 Teachers create and maintain a challenging learning environment

2.1 Teachers plan for effective learning

How does the teacher plan for all students to have the confidence to take risks in English/Literacy learning?

How does the teacher enable students to engage with and make connections between school and community-based literacies?

  Writer's circle - a pathway for reflection
Year 3/4
Annamaria Zuffo

Many of my most enjoyable teaching moments have evolved from the sessions of Writer's Circle. This strategy occurs after writing sessions where the children and myself engage in meaningful talk about writing. This article will provide an insight into the purpose and value of children reflecting on their writing.

I teach a 3/4 class in a school with two major priorities; these being literacy and social justice. By providing meaningful and engaging literacy experiences we can provide experiences that achieve social justice. In using Writer's Circle in English sessions I have been able to provide students with a purpose for sharing their work and reflecting on their literacy experiences.

Writer's Circle is practised from Kindergarten to Year 6. I always enjoy the way children talk and listen to each other in these sessions. At the beginning of the year, I model ways for the children to talk to one another in Writer's Circle and support their efforts as they learn new ways of becoming critical learners. This modelling and scaffolding is essential as it provides the children with a guide for making comments about other children's writing.

We all sit in a circle and I ask the children if they would like to share their work. At first some children are hesitant, but after a few sessions with more confident children reading their writing, I have found that the hesitant children like to share. I make the environment a supportive one and I read the children's writing out if they are really hesitant.

I choose three or four children to read their writing and, after each one, the child who has shared chooses different children to make positive comments about their writing. I model this language and emphasise to the children that they need to address each other. Various positive comments are made and the children also make comments about ways for each writer to improve their writing, in a positive way.

The following comments exemplify the interactions typical of a Writer's Circle session.

I like the way Tavis included a lot of detail in his story, Caitlin says.
I like the way Tavis made the name of the character in his story a surprise, Sharon says.
I like the way Ashling had a twist and used the background of 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears', Leyla says.
I like the way Ashling had a change in roles, Agnes says.
I like the way Coinneach introduced the character's name, Jack says.
I like the way you put a lot of information in about your holidays, Leyla, Agnes says.
I like the way Leyla wrote a variety of subjects, Brooke says.
I like the way you put a lot of exciting words in your writing, Leyla, Coinneach says.

The comments above are ones that celebrate writing, and they give specific information about the content of the writing. They always make the writer/reader feel positive about their work.

I like the way you expressed yourself in your reading, Tavis, Amie says..
I like the way Ashling went back and re-read her corrections, Trent says.
I like the way Coinneach read the story out, Brooke says.
I like the way you expressed yourself when you read your story, Coinneach. You could add this expression into your reading all the time, Tracy say..
I like the way Leyla's expression really fits in with her writing, Tracy says.
I like the way Elizabeth really expressed her work and I liked her title, Brooke says.

The comments above demonstrate the close connection with reading and the way that Writer's Circle enables children to develop expression in their reading. It is also a great way for children to develop an understanding of the value of reading their work aloud when proofreading and editing their writing.

I like the detail you put into your writing, Elizabeth. Maybe next time you could add more about the setting of the story, Agnes says.

The comments above illustrate the ways children can develop skills in giving constructive criticism to others. It is always given in a positive way. After some of these sessions I type up these comments and display them in the classroom. I encourage the children to read them. This is a special way of sharing the rich language used during Writer's Circle.

This reflective language is a major part of my everyday teaching and I have extended these reflective sessions to Reading Circles and Maths Circles. Also, the children are now always eager to share other work from other Key Learning Areas, and have become more confident in adding to comments for our reflective display. This language is also a valuable way of using portfolios and their prompts in the classroom. Writer's Circle has also assisted the children's skills in reading with expression and using punctuation when reading.

Reflective practices are important. They lead students to know more about how they learn. They unlock the secrets of learning and thus children are empowered for future learning experiences. Writer's Circle enables the children to reflect on their learning about writing and develops their skills in using constructive feedback.

I have found Writer's Circle to be a rich and rewarding literacy experience and it is an event that the children ask to participate in. I keep records of who has shared so that all children get an opportunity to share. It is always changing and that makes it all the more exciting.

Writer's Circle allows all children to be involved in positive literacy experiences and this leads me to be able to achieve one aspect of social justice. It is a strategy that enhances writing, listening, speaking and reading&and most of all has enabled children to enjoy and embrace literacy.

STELLA  Home Standards Statements Standards Keywords STELLA Narratives Research on Standards STELLA Sitemap
Australian Association for the Teaching of English A L E A ~ Australian Literacy Educators' Assoication
Department of Education & Training (Victoria) Education Department of Western Australia