Creating curious, confident and empowered writers

Presented by Stacy Foss, Ph.D. and Tracy Vogel, M.Ed.

Inclusion Institute

Austin, TX

June 11, 2015

Our Amazing Students and Us, as students, ourselves

Our Writing Philosophy for students:

  • First and foremost, have the COURAGE to write.
  • Write to express emotions, thoughts and feelings.
  • Know your ideas are important and know you are heard.
  • Be able to use writing to entertain, persuade and educate others.
  • Discover new ways to use writing to convey meaning.
  • Utilize what you know to publish writing pieces.
  • READ and recognize the importance of various styles and genres.
  • Notice voice and personality in writing and discover YOURS.
  • Write about what you know and what you love.
  • Readers are writers and writers are readers. Readers & Writers=Leaders!

Discovering: The Neglected Step in the Writing Process

What does discovering mean?

Idea time.

Creative time.

No rules.

No red pens.

No grammar, mechanics, or usage.

No spel chek. :)

Messy, messy, messy!

It’s very freeing.

To let your mind wander.

To spend time discovering.

Discovering…like when you were a child digging in the dirt in your back yard, or the sand at the beach. And then finding something you weren’t even looking for.


-Dr. Mira Reisberg (Mondays with Mandy and Mira)

INQUIRY: Will emphasizing the importance of self discovery in the writing process create more confident, capable writers?

We chose to conduct this inquiry with our class because we were looking for another tool to pull reluctant writers out of their shells and foster a true love for writing. We wanted each student to feel true ownership in their pieces and feel the freedom to discover new things that are important to them as writers. We wanted each student to expand their thinking and move away from reliance on teacher prompts.

For the most part, this inquiry worked well in our current classroom setting. The biggest challenge was finding time to allow students to free write, when we had specific areas we had to focus on. Our students loved free writing SO much that that is all they wanted to do, many even asking if they could take their journals to recess to write!(#teacherforthewin) It worked out that we allowed them to do this every day during Daily Five, Work on Writing.

IMG 6100



Reluctant Writer...

who me...write?



how much?

a page...?



how about-

blood and guts

or aliens


last night's DVD


i'm Done

can i go?

-Kellie Buis


Samples of Reluctant writer pieces at various stages of discovery

Challenges Faced by Emergent Writers

1. They do not view themselves as writer's

2. They have limited knowledge of what constitutes good writing

3. They do not engage in advance planning

4. They have difficulty generating content and articulating ideas

5. They rarely make meaningful revisions

6. They often struggle with the fine motor aspect of writing

7. They evidence minimal persistence

8. They lack motivation due to past perceived failures

More Research...


"Good writers write about what they know and what they love."


Classroom Community is KEY to empowering young writers

Examples of ways to create an enjoyable and inspiring environment include...

  • establishing an exciting mood during writing time;

  • encouraging students to take risks when writing;

  • developing writing assignments that reflect students’ interests;

  • allowing students to select their own writing topics or modify assigned topics;

  • having students arrange their own writing space;

  • encouraging students to help each other as they plan, write, revise, and edit their work;

  • holding student conferences to discuss writing goals, achievements, and challenges;

  • asking students to share works-in-progress and completed papers with each other;

  • praising students for their accomplishments, effort, and use of writing strategies;

  • reinforcing students’ efforts and accomplishments by “showcasing” work and sharing with other children/adults; and

  • consistently modeling and promoting an “I can do this” attitude.



"The first step is to give them time to discover what it is they want to say.

The next step is to give them time to figure out that they actually do have something to say.

And the final step is to spend an insane amount of time brainstorming ideas. (You know, like an entire month.)

Brainstorming stories, pictures, and thoughts without having to write them in complete sentences. Without having to spell every word correctly. Without making sure their handwriting fits perfectly on the lines and is in perfect print or cursive or whatever. Without the need to be perfect (all the time.)

Because, as adults, how would we react if everything new we were learning, had to be performed on the spot, for the first time, with perfection, every time?

We Would Hate It.

We Would Quit!

So my point?

There simply isn’t enough time dedicated to allowing kids to discover who they are as writers and what they want to say.

Wanna make them good writers? Give them the time to discover."

(From The Children's Book Academy, Dr. Mira Reisberg)