Nurturing Lifelong Writers

Class 2 students are writing up a storm! During Writing Workshop, the girls in each section were busy crafting book reviews, opinion essays and persuasive letters. Although the individual lessons varied somewhat, the classes shared an overarching goal: To create compelling, clear and credible prose.

“In keeping with our School’s theme, ‘Our Future, Our Voices,’ we have focused on the importance of sharing our opinions or making convincing arguments for things we want to change,” explained Head Teacher Karen Katz. In this class’s Writing Workshop, some students wrote letters to Lower School Head Thérèse Cruite about alternatives to traditional recess and others to their parents about the benefits of pets likes hamsters and hermit crabs.

In Soo Kim and Alexandra Buser’s class, the students gathered in half-groups on the rug for a lesson that poked light-hearted fun at their teacher’s writing. The girls discovered, much to Ms. Kim’s dismay, that Ms. Buser had not read Ms. Kim’s essay about cupcakes because it failed to grab her attention. What did she do wrong?

What Ms. Kim’s piece lacked – and what all Class 2 students soon learned – was the importance of beginning a writing exercise with a “catchy lead.”

“If it’s not catchy, they won’t read it,” one student explained.

To achieve a catchy lead, the students in Ms. Kim and Ms. Buser’s class practiced strategies to jazz up their opening paragraphs. These included: “asking a question,” “using a sound” and “being an expert.” With the students’ help, Ms. Kim tried to improve her writing. By starting with a question (“Do you like frosting?”), adding an expressive sound (“Yum!”) and inserting her expert opinion (“I eat several cupcakes a week, so I know that Little Red Hen makes the best ones!), she definitely succeeded. The students knew they could make their writing more interesting and fun to read, too.

After the lesson, the girls grabbed their writing folders, found their seats and got to work re-writing their opinion pieces to make them more enticing. When asked to explain the assignment to a visitor, one elaborated: “We had to choose anything to make an opinion about and reasons why you think something should or should not be. Like you might think flair pens are better. That’s your opinion.”

At one table, a student was thinking about what sound a pencil makes. After eliciting a few suggestions, she settled on “Scratch!,” which was precisely how she began her piece about this useful writing instrument. Another girl, sitting by the window, was formulating a captivating sentence to kick off her story about the virtues of frozen yogurt. A third was eager to read her opinion essay about why F.A.O. Schwartz should re-open, which concluded with the convincing statement: “It’s not only a children’s toy store but an exciting activity!”

Next door in Laura O’Reilly and Gloria Rodriguez’s class, the students edited their book reviews to make them more exciting. Along with catchy leads, they practiced incorporating “sparkly words” into their work. Otherwise known as adjectives, sparkly words add color and mood to sentences, a concept the students rapidly absorbed.

“I need more adjectives spread around my writing. That makes it more interesting!” one declared. A second offered, “Adjectives make writing juicier. You can’t keep your eyes off of it, it has so many details!”

When writing their book reviews, the students were encouraged to “re-tell” the story, making sure not to give away too much. “We want them to read the book but we don’t want the book review to spoil it for them,” commented a student. “It’s a sneak peak.” They also learned how to make winning comparisons — such as describing a character as “happy as a monkey with 20 bananas” — and how to “talk back” in their reviews by expressing a strong argument in support of a book, even though some people may not agree.

As their students worked, Ms. O’Reilly and Ms. Rodriguez circulated to meet with each writer about her progress. For others who still needed help, their teachers reminded them to make use of two valuable tools, the book they reviewed and the classroom’s Writing Board, which clearly detailed strategies and tips for excellent writing.

With energy and imagination, the students tackled their book reviews, persuasive letters and opinion essays, determined to make their words shine. Their enthusiasm and focus were contagious. Clearly, these students enjoyed the creative process.

“Sometimes when I write, it calms me down,” said a student, proudly showing her finished book review. “If I have nothing to do, I can always write.”

“It’s just fun,” said another. “You also get to share what you’re thinking about on paper. As I write, I learn more and more. I work on my handwriting, my upper and lower case letters, punctuation and other things.”

As this writer was pleased to observe, the students in Class 2 love to write and are already versatile wordsmiths. With their passion for writing ignited, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.

Browse photos from Writing Workshop below: