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A writing box for every child: Changing strategies for teaching writing in a first and second grade classroom

Sharon Ann Edwards, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation documents new curriculum and instructional strategies for teaching writing in a first and second grade classroom during the eight years of the Writing Box project. It is a first-person account of ongoing change as I, the teacher-researcher experienced and understood it. My descriptions of change and children's writing samples show how teaching practices and learning activities developed and evolved through incorporating writing at the core of student learning. My experiences demonstrate how substantive change can occur in elementary schools through the efforts of a teacher and students working together to create successful academic achievement. One hundred seventy-five first and second graders were given Writing Boxes to use at home and they were in a classroom that featured writing across the curriculum. Six conclusions are drawn from their experiences. First, choice of writing materials makes a difference in how willing children are to write. Interesting, open-ended materials are prerequisites for children to write all year. Second, teachers must create many writing times throughout the day. My students wrote during regularly scheduled writing times as well as before school began, during snack and "you-choose" time, and at recess and lunch. Third, how teachers talk with children about writing is crucial to children becoming active writers. I changed my vocabulary and approach to emphasize that children are writers right now with ideas and pictures in their heads to communicate to others through text. Fourth, process models for teaching writing based on the experiences of adult writers must be modified to create "a writing process fit for a child." This child-centered approach includes diverse ways of opening up writing, generating first drafts, revising and editing, and publishing. Fifth, writing can be integrated into the study of mathematics, science and social studies using "I Wonder" journals, fiction-nonfiction stories, and math comics. Finally, computers and other technologies promote writing. Having more than one computer in the classroom allowed me to do more small group instruction with writing. The machines provide different ways to write and to publish while supporting children's creativity and self-expression.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Preschool education|Elementary education|Rhetoric|Composition

Recommended Citation

Edwards, Sharon Ann, "A writing box for every child: Changing strategies for teaching writing in a first and second grade classroom" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9721445.