Students Collaborating in Writing Workshop: Writing Partnerships K-3

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Students Collaborating in Writing Workshop: Writing Partnerships K-3

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille 

As Lucy Calkins writes in A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop, “It’s a great thing in life to find someone who can help you with your writing (p. 48).” Lucy believes this for students, for her colleagues, and certainly, for herself. One only has to read the acknowledgements section in any of Lucy and colleagues' Units of Study books to get a sense of the influence and power of writing partners.  

Writers from the very young to the most advanced benefit from having someone who is a trusted confidante, a sounding board, and a cheerleader. Happily, with some planning and consistency, setting up successful writing partnerships in a writing workshop classroom can be done with minimal stress and maximum benefit.  

Some tips to help with setting up partnerships: 

  • Partnerships are usually the most successful when the teacher selects them. It seems in line with the independence we try to instill in students in writing workshop to let them choose their own partners. However, most teachers’ experience shows that the best friends students choose to play with on the playground do not make the most focused, supportive writing partners. 
  • Partnerships do not need to be ability based. Often students who have different strengths make great partners, such as one whose strength is detail and one whose strength is organization. 
  • Consider the personality of the writers when grouping them. Often, quiet students partner well with other quiet students, and talkative students partner well with other talkative students. Make sure that no student is in a partnership where her voice will not be heard. Avoid partnering students who do not work well together in other subjects. 
  • Ideally, partners stay together for an entire unit. If a partnership really not working well, they can be changed mid-unit. If a partnership is very strong, they might stay together for the next unit, as well. 
  • Support English Language Learners by partnering them with a proficient speaker. Or, if they are pre-emergent speakers, they might work in a triad with two proficient speakers who can act as models. 

At this week’s TCRWP Twitter Chat, Lead Staff Developer Rachel Rothman will lead the community in chatting about ways to set up and support writing partnerships. Please join to learn more about how to get your writers going in their best partnerships yet. 

Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @RachelARothman to chat about writing partners in grades K-3 tomorrow evening.  

Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.


    Anna Gratz Cockerille

Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series.

Anna was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and taught at several TCRWP institutes, including the content literacy institute, where she helped participants bring strong literacy instruction into social studies classrooms. Anna also has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and Navigating Nonfiction in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Most recently, Anna served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.

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