one of the biggest challenges when teaching kids to talk well about their writing – or their peers’ writing – is for them to have the knowledge of and the language for what they could notice or discuss. we’re big believers that the more kids are immersed in the work of reading texts like writers and the more this work and talk is modeled for them and they’re guided through it, the more innately they’ll develop the knowledge and language to talk well about writing. we also believe, though, that some direct instruction is necessary for all kids to do this work successfully and confidently.
one way we’ve supported this work is to create a writing craft moves chart in our classroom that grows over time. the chart can have categories like: craft move, why writers use it, and examples. it should be in an area that’s easily accessible and visible, especially during mini-lessons or whenever your kids are most likely to be doing accountable talk work with their writing partner. it could look like this:
the photo above reflects a chart that’s been co-created with our students across many weeks. there are, of course, more craft moves that would be added as the year progresses, and even different craft moves depending on what type of writing you were focused on (this one was co-authored during our narrative units).
here’s how we’ve implemented the chart and found the most success with it:
- start with the craft moves already posted, and make them craft moves that you’ve already done some talk around (so, maybe start this chart a few weeks into the school year, depending on how knowledgeable and experienced your kids are as writers when they come to you)
- focus on one craft move at a time, and do it intentionally – carve out some time during mid-workshop interruptions or share times across the week to focus on this one craft move. once you’ve decided which craft move you’ll start with, look through student writing (their notebooks or a recently published piece) and write down their examples (word for word) of that craft move on post-its, giving credit to the author under their work. the examples are sometimes just a few words or may be a few sentences.
- read the examples you gathered aloud to the class and ask them to think about why an author uses this craft move, as in: why did the authors in our room use this craft move? listen in or have students share out their reasons and write them down on the post-it in the “why writers use it” column.
- leave blank post-its for students to add more examples to the chart
this chart is especially supportive when students are giving feedback to their peers. when students aren’t quite sure what craft moves their partner has used (step 1 in the way we teach our kids to give feedback) or why a writer might use the craft move (step 2 in the way we teach our kids to give feedback), they can turn to the chart for support. and, just as scaffolding on a building is temporary, kids’ reliance on the chart will be temporary, too. the more they use it and practice talking about their writing, the more they internalize the work, and rely less on the chart.
beyond supporting talk about writing, the chart can also support students when trying out a craft move in their own writing. if a student is experimenting with using sets of three, for example, he might walk up to this chart and pull a post-it off of the chart to take back to his seat and use as a mentor text or even ask for a peer conference with the author of the post-it.