Community Writing

Last week we finished a community writing project that we’ve been working on for several weeks. After completing a unit of study on fairy tales, we decided to write our own version – calling it The Three Gingerbread Kids. I posted the story in a VoiceThread below so we could share it with others. There is also a slide show that shows the illustration process.

In Catching Readers, I talk about community writing in Chapter 5 as a key component to a comprehensive literacy framework. Sharing the pen with the students as we negotiate the text together provides many excellent teaching opportunities. My kinders are making books like crazy during writer’s workshop. They are trying a variety of genres and all of them are adding words to their books – from labels to detailed sentences. I wanted to use this community writing piece as a way to support all writers in taking even bigger risks in their writing. I wanted to have them create a continuous text, based on what they learned about fairy tales, and practice strategic reading and writing actions and skills while we composed and wrote the text together. Within the context of community writing, we not only learned about letters, sounds and how words work but also about decisions writers make, such as what to include, how to best structure a sentence and how to organize their thoughts into a coherent piece of writing with a clear beginning, middle and end. I am also seeing a huge transfer in their own writing. The books they are making in writer’s workshop have more words, more details and show a clearer story structure. Kids are taking more risks as they attempt to write the words they need to create their books.

I also wanted to focus on the writer’s statement, “Writers make sure the pictures match the words.” We looked closely at our read aloud favorites and noticed that indeed, all writers make sure the pictures match the words. We took this into our illustration days, thoughtfully planning how our illustrations could not only match the words, but build upon the story, just like Mo Willems, Jan Thomas and other favorite mentor author/illustrators do. We chose to illustrate the book using a method I learned about from Ann Marie Corgill in Of Primary Importance (an excellent resource for writing). We used Sharpie permanent markers to outline our drawings. Then we filled in the colors with crayons. The bold outlines really make the illustrations pop.

Community writing is one of my favorite teaching contexts. It’s just so rich, meaningful, engaging and differentiated. It does build community and allows all children to shine. Rereading the book every day before we added a page had this book soon become a known favorite. We have it displayed in our hallway to revisit during reader’s workshop and to share with our school. Enjoy our story!

Illustrating “The Three Gingerbread Kids” on PhotoPeach

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Vodpod videos no longer available.


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