Why You Should Publish Student Writing

Why you should Publish In the Classroom As you have probably realized, I am crazy about having kids publish books in the classroom! Why? Lots of reasons, but here are three at the top of my list.

1- Students get motivated and excited about writing when they know it’s for an authentic purpose. Publication is a wonderfully authentic purpose! Revision and editing are deadly dull work unless there is some reason for it. I wouldn’t give one hoot about reading over this blog post except that I know it’s going to be published on the web. People will see it! Suddenly I have a much greater interest in making sure my writing is clear, interesting, and spelled correctly.

Kids need this same motivation. Writing for an authentic purpose (publication being the current example) is a reason to buckle down and get it right! (Knowing that a publishing party is coming also helps. A lot.)

2- Reading and writing are reciprocal skills. If you can write words, you can read them. Marie Clay (the “mother” of Reading Recovery) recognized the critical importance of connecting reading and writing when working with struggling readers. (If you want to go deeper on this relationship, read this excellent article.)  Therefore, if we help students capture their language in written form, it’s going to support their overall literacy achievement.

This is a fact demonstrated by Beth Olshansky’s work. (I have written about her art integrated approach to writing workshop here, here, and here.)

Olshansky’s research proved that a writing workshop emphasizing publication of student writing (and the repeated reading of that work) made a dramatic impact on student reading achievement, even though the explicit teaching of reading was not part of her program.

3- When we publish student writing, we convey the message that children are REAL writers worthy of publication. This is a powerful message to send our students! One of my favorite stories was told to me by a friend who is a guidance counselor. One year she worked with a little boy and helped him make a simple book out of copy paper that was stapled down the side. The next year he approached her in the hall and said, “I need to talk to you! I searched all over the library for that book I wrote last year and I can’t find it- which shelf did you put it on?”

Just because student books are bound with staples and tape doesn’t take away the power of feeling published and REAL. Let’s harness that power!

Photo Credit: Wellspring Community School via Flickr, CCL 2013

  children are real writers A Few More Ideas for Starting with Fun Class Books

I have already shared several of my “back to school” publishing projects that are designed to get the publishing process going while also helping us build classroom community. (See below for the list of previous posts in this series.)

I want to wrap up today by sharing a few other  “class book” ideas from around the web. I have done several versions of these projects with my own students in the past, though I never thought to photograph them. (I’m working on that!)

In each case, I have linked the idea to the original source. Please click through for more information about the projects.

The Important Book Class Book Idea 1- The Important Book: This idea is based on the children’s book, The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. Though first published back in 1949, it’s still a wonderful book to read to the children so they can create their own “innovation.” I like the vintage feel of the illustrations.

Here’s an example from the text: “The important thing about rain is/ that it is wet./ It falls out of the sky,/ and it sounds like rain,/ and makes things shiny,/ and it does not taste like anything,/ and is the color of air./ But the important thing about rain is that it is wet.” 

I like to start the year with an “Important Book” about our class. Each child follows the pattern to write important facts about themselves. Sometimes I photograph the kids and sometimes I have them create their own images. It becomes a lovely class book (and another good one to pass around to families.)

Once kids get this format, you can use it again throughout the year with research-oriented writing. For example, “The Important Book of Sea Creatures” or “The Important Book of the Civil Rights Movement.” Each child can research a specific animal/ historical figure/ moment in time and write about the “important facts.”

Want to see an example? Check out this post from the Littlest Learners. 

2- Brown Bear, What Do You See? Innovations: You know this one! I always start off a preschool/ kinder year reading this book and quickly create an innovation based on our own class. “James, James, who do you see?” “I see Vivian looking at me!” Passing that kind of book around helps the children learn their classmates’ names.

I love “innovating” famous books with young children because it teaches them that we can get inspired by (and mimic) the work of professional authors. That is a valuable lesson that can be expanded on with older children.

*Check out Tammy’s collection of Halloween Book Ideas over at Forever in First. I love her take on “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” with Halloween costumes! She has some cute ideas.

3- A Seuss-inspired Innovation:

Check out this adorable innovation from Mrs. Goff’s Pre-K Tales! They created a book based on Dr. Seuss’ writing style (as featured in Green Eggs and Ham) on all the places they can read. i.e.- “I can read beside a wall, I can read out in the hall.”

Click through to the link to see more. Such a great literacy activity!

Want to know what to do with class books at the end of the year? I used to take apart the books so I could send home each child’s page in their final portfolio. However, I learned a lesson from my son’s kindergarten teacher. During the last week of school, she spreads out all of the class books from the year and tells the children they are going to get to keep one as a memento from their special year in kindergarten. She then draws names and the children take turns choosing. Some years there are enough for each child to get two books to keep. My son was so thrilled to bring home those class books- they are treasures! What a great idea!

Do you have any questions about publishing in the classroom? I’m happy to answer!

Previous Posts in this Series:

Build Community with Class Books: The Collage Book

Build Community with Class Books: Photo-Based Book Ideas

Creating Black and White Photos with Picmonkey

5 Easy Ways to Bind Books in the Classroom

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