Learning to be writers: Similarities and differences in first graders' processes and products

Anita Jane Ferreri, Fordham University


For today's students, learning to be writers is a fundamental component of literacy development beginning early in their school careers (Calkins, 1994; Clay, 1979); yet, learning to write is more than transferring ideas to print text. Teachers' beliefs, socio-cultural differences, and complex classroom interactions may all contribute to differences in developing writers. This study describes the development of first-grade students' writing during a classroom's designated writing period. The focus was on the explicit and implicit similarities and differences in students' writing processes and products in a classroom where all students were expected to be writers. It was important to observe the range of both writing behaviors and written products of students. It was also valuable to observe the classroom writing environment, instruction, and student-teacher interactions. Samples from both teacher-proofread and non-teacher-proofread writing were described. Hypotheses generated from this study were: (a) Students use writing to document their interests, activities, and possessions with socio-economically and culturally privileged students focusing on descriptions of their coveted possessions and pleasurable experiences and less privileged students focusing on family responsibilities and interactions; (b) As writers develop audience awareness, students differentiate their production of teacher-proofread and non-proofread texts with non-proofread writing becoming increasingly perfunctory with redundant expressions of passive compliance; (c) Writers mix conventional and approximate spelling, punctuation, and capitalization as they focus on sharing personally significant content with writing tasks and teacher scaffolds influencing students' transition to conventional print formats; (d) Students participate differentially in the writing environment with socio-economic, socio-cultural, and learning differences contributing to how workshop participants interact and how students are perceived in a community of writers; (e) Teacher beliefs about valued writing formats and behaviors are paramount determining instruction, formatting tasks, shaping classroom interactions, and, at times, influencing implementation of researchers' ideas and district curricula guidelines. Research is needed to explore professional development models that promote critical thinking about professional practice. Additional research suggestions include exploring the efficacy of small group guided writing, personal journals, and writing assessments.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Literacy|Reading instruction|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Ferreri, Anita Jane, "Learning to be writers: Similarities and differences in first graders' processes and products" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3208579.