Writing in the Elementary Classroom: An Interview with the Teacher Next Door

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I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Jenn Larson, also known as The Teacher Next Door, about her top tips for implementing writing workshop in the elementary classroom and the relationship between reading and writing.  Jenn has been teaching for over 20 years, and over the course of her career, she has developed strategies to help students produce their best pieces of writing and to help teachers navigate writing workshop.  

Keep reading to discover what Jenn says about how to get students writing and keep them writing in the elementary classroom!

The Relationship Between Reading + Writing

Some of your best-selling lessons and bundles teach literacy skills. Throughout your 20+ year teaching career, what do you see is the relationship between reading and writing? What role does reading play in the writing process?

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"I think there is a strong relationship between reading and writing and that the two go hand-in-hand. Students who read more are usually better readers, which often translates to improved writing. All of this time and experience with print helps students see examples of good writing and provides them with a rich vocabulary from which to draw. That’s one reason I have always tried to encourage my students to love reading. Even though we as teachers, try to provide students with engaging books, it is even more powerful when students are able to self-select books to read and are given time in class to spend reading those books each day. That’s when we help students really enjoy reading, and this love of reading often strengthens their ability to write as well."

Student Writing

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How do you get your students writing?

"I like to do a variety of things to get kids to write, and we spend time writing each day. Students have a Writer’s Notebook, where we chart some of our mini-lessons, and where they are able to free-write, too. This is a 'non- pressure' place for them to write, which I think is important. Not everything we write is turned in. We write and write and write for practice, so when we write as an assignment, it doesn’t feel so scary.

Besides the Writer’s Notebook, I try to have kids write for authentic purposes, like letters to soldiers, school staff, or buddies. We may do friendly letters to our parents to tell them about the school carnival or a bake sale that we’re doing as a school project. We also do experience writing, where we may write about an assembly we just attended or about a field trip we took together.

Another thing I’m big on is directly teaching paragraphing step-by-step. We break down each part and spend time with mini-lessons on each particular part of the paragraph. I made worksheets to focus specifically on topic sentences, transitions, and conclusions, so students get lots of practice before trying to tackle a whole paragraph themselves. Once they know the formula for a paragraph, then they can personalize it and make it more of their own.

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Lastly, we do several big research projects each year. Students are given detailed instructions and are able to see samples of the projects (from former students), to give them a clear idea of what is expected. I could go on forever about writing as it is one of my favorite things to teach. What I’m really trying to say is that when writing is part of the classroom atmosphere and routine, students come to expect it and to accept it and some to enjoy it!"

Writing Workshop

What is your top tip for teachers on how to run a successful writing workshop?

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"One of my top tips would be to make sure to teach writing skills specifically and purposefully. When I teach a writing, I like to use a lot of former student’s work, both good and bad as examples. I leave off their names and re-type the papers so they can be projected on the Smart Board. We discuss these carefully and this makes it so much more visual for them. I also make sure that before students work independently, that we do an example together as a class. We go step-by-step, as students dictate sentences. Then we read and make some edits until we’re satisfied with the finish product. Once we’ve worked through it together, their understanding is increased and they are much better prepared to start working on their own."

Meet Jenn Larson-- The Teacher Next Door

Jenn has taught for over 20 years. She spent about ten years teaching second grade but has spent the past 10+ years teaching 4th/5th grades.  She comes from a family of teachers and says that teaching is in her blood.  Her approach to learning is to teach to the "whole child" and not just teaching to the test.  Jenn's main goal is for her students to become "life long learners" and "happy, well-adjusted adults."

The Teacher Next Door is also a top seller on Teachers Pay Teachers with fantastic products to meet the demands of teaching elementary with creativity, humor, and innovation.  Other teachers connect with Jenn so easily because she truly is "the teacher next door," and her resources reflect the depth of her experience and knowledge for guiding elementary students to success!

Connect with The Teacher Next Door

Related Resource

The Complete Paragraph Writing Bundle for 3rd - 6th Grade is one of the many best-selling writing products by The Teacher Next Door. Click on the images below to learn more about this product and many more from Jenn Larson!

About TeachWriting.org

It is no secret that students are continuing to struggle more and more with writing.  The rate at which students are having to take remedial English when entering college is disheartening.  Now, more than ever, teachers in grades K-12 need highly effective tips, strategies, and lesson plans for writing instruction.   That's where TeachWriting.org steps in!

TeachWriting.org is dedicated to delivering high quality, curated writing instruction from teachers across the United States who are passionate about sharing their expertise with teachers like you! TeachWriting.org is a centralized database for practical writing tools and materials to support your curriculum and instructional needs.  We are here to give you the support and encouragement you need to guide your students to success!  Join today!