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
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.
Go on to Independent Reading and Self-Initiated Writing References
Back to Motivating Students
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