Self-Initiated Writing

Students learn to write by writing and by having writing modeled for them by a more experienced writer, a peer, or an adult. As they are learning to write, students must have time to write about things that are of interest to them; researchers have found that giving students choices in what they are doing leads to more effective learning (Johnston & Allington, 1991).

When students are writing, they are practicing the process of writing: they are practicing phonics and other word-identification skills as they spell; and they are using and practicing the elements involved in grammar and usage.

Self-initiated or independent writing provides students time to experiment and practice with writing in situations that are important to them. When students are writing, they are also reading (Graves, 1984). Therefore, there are reciprocal benefits for reading as students write.

Time Requirements

Unlike reading research, writing research does not provide evidence as to the amount of time students should have for self-initiated writing. Researchers do stress the importance of giving students extended time for writing (Anderson, et al., 1985; Hillocks, 1987). Cooper (1993) recommends that self-initiated writing range from twenty to forty-five minutes per day depending on the grade level.

Types of Activities

Self-initiated writing means that students write about whatever they choose. Some students might write in a journal or diary while others are writing stories. Others may be writing jokes, cartoon strips, letters, or reports. Ideally, the teacher would also be writing during this time. Periodically, students should share what they have written if they choose to do so.
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