Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Setting Writing Goals with Young Writers

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This morning, I guest-taught in a second grade class. I have worked together with this teacher since the beginning of the year. so I am familiar with most of the students in her class, making it easier for them to be honest and reflective. My lesson was all about reflection and setting goals and I was so impressed with these young students' growth mindsets and perseverance. 

The second-graders in our district are finishing up their narrative units, having started the year with personal narratives and then moved into realistic fiction. Because they have had so much instruction within the narrative genre, I really wanted the students I worked with this morning to think about where they get stuck and what goals they could set for themselves. I arrived with this chart already made for them: 

I took the language for this chart from the Teachers College Grade 2 Writing Checklist, so it would be easy to transfer the skills to other grades and genres.

As I taught the lesson, I challenged the students to think about where they stuck. When two students raised their hands that they couldn't think of a story, I honored them and they worked with their classroom teacher to think of a story as I continued. Other students then felt braver to let on that they weren't sure how to plan across the pages, so they became a small group. 

When two students shared that they wanted to choose strong words, I suggested that they might want to partner up and inspire each other. That concept inspired more students to want to work on strong words. Nothing like the lure of collaboration!

As they went to work on their stories, I continued to ask students what their goal was for the day, referring back to the chart. Some of them chatted about the evidence of their work during the mid-workshop interruption, and others stayed with one of the first two steps until they felt more comfortable at thinking and planning quickly. My favorite part of the lesson was at the end, when I asked the students to write down their goal so that they could remember what they were working on tomorrow. 

As you can see, they were serious about their work and they identified different work for themselves. Also, because they wrote it down and kept it with their pieces, their classroom teacher should have an easy time initiating conversations about how their work is going and what they plan to work on.

Goal is to plan across pages

Goal is to use strong words

Goal is plan across pages

Goal is to bring characters to life

I am looking forward to hearing about how students in this classroom continue to set goals for themselves. Once they learn that we can celebrate not understanding as long as we set goals and work to achieve them, the rate of powerful learning really, REALLY grows. 

Happy slicing!


  1. First, how wonderful to guest teach in second grade! It wouldn't be the grade I'd want to teach daily, but that's a fun age to work with on occasion!

    Thanks for including all of the photos of the kids' work. Great to see their work, sticky notes & all.

  2. It looks to me that you've given such a good & supported start to the kids, their needs, & to help the teacher take over tomorrow, Melanie. I like the deliberate intentions you used as you worked through the lesson. Have a nice week!