Delaware Writing Project

Building a Community of Writers

By Jocelyn Delaney

In the first few weeks of school I establish routines in my classroom.  One of the most important routines is establishing a safe writing community.  I explain how important our writing time is to my students.  I share with them that my goal for each of them is to find their inner voice; that through our writing time they will grow and learn about themselves as writers, readers, and as scholars.  I excitedly reveal to them that throughout this school year each of them will become a celebrated published author, joining some of the greats.  “Who do you want to be?” I ask in an almost whisper.  They always seem to hang on every word at this point.  I then show them the covers of some of their favorite books and ask them to think about the published authors they will soon be joining.  As I show each cover I say the authors name; “Jane Yolen. Dav Pilkey. Dr. Seuss. Tomie dePaola.”  After this, I take a long pause.  I love watching their faces light up.  It’s as if in this moment the whole world of writing opens up to them.

Next, we explore the writing materials in our classroom.  We try out our class “Author’s Chair”. This chair is where they will sit when they are sharing their writing with classmates. This chair is not an ordinary chair.  It looks kind of ordinary.  It is an old leather desk chair with wooden legs.  When looking at it, this chair doesn’t seem extraordinary.  However, this chair does extraordinary things. I tell them I can’t wait to see what happens to them when they begin sitting in it.  After talking about the “Author’s Chair”, we test out different seating options and practice returning to the rug, sitting ready to listen to one of our classmates share.

Finally, they practice getting their writing binders and a pencil out soundlimg_0132essly. On this first day, and only on this first day, you can hear a pin drop as they hold their binders and pencils and choose their first “writing spot”.  Their excitement is palpable.  I dim the lights as soft instrumental music is playing in the background and they write.  Not for very long – about 5-7 minutes.  This gives them just long enough to write down a few words or sentences.  I don’t say anything during this time.  When I notice that my students are becoming restless, I ring the bell. Just as we practiced, we come together as a classroom community on the rug.  Then each student who volunteers to share what they wrote has the opportunity to sit in our “Author’s Chair”.  As a classroom of writers, we clap and celebrate for each classmate as they share.  At the end of our first Writer’s Workshop lesson, I congratulate each student and welcome them into our community of writers.

About the Author

Jocelyn Delaney is a second grade teacher at Saint Edmond’s Academy, a private, all boys school in Wilmington, Delaware.  Jocelyn earned her bachelor’s degree from Wilmington University in elementary and special education in 2012.  She joined the Delaware Writing Project in 2016.

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