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February 13, 2017 ELA K-5, ELA 6-8, ELA Resources - Tip Sheets, ELA Focus - Writing, ELA 9-12, ELA PD - Leadership, ELA PD - Grammar Writing, Core Grammar

How to Build a School Writing Community Around Shared Values–A FREE Step-by-Step Guide

In my post "Writing Communities in Schools: School-wide Literacy Action Plans," I wrote that shared value systems must be one of the first elements in place when constructing a writing community.



Before leaders can expect teachers to implement strategies that will foster a community of writers, they must first have the opportunity to create a shared value system. A shared value system ensures that your writing community will be effective.

Writing communities are built around a set of shared values about writing and the work that writers do. Two essential questions have been posed:

  • What does it mean to be a community of writers?

  • What does it take to be a community of writers?

In the second case, commitment and dedication to the process of building a writing community must both be in place. To that end, how might you get writers started?

Here are the steps that principals and specialists can take with teachers in order to develop a shared value system and get your school community moving toward the common goal of writing as a group. This can be done in a single meeting or over the course of a few meetings.




BEFORE YOU MEET: All participants should have individual composition notebooks. If you are unable to provide them, ask that teachers bring a composition notebook to the faculty meeting or staff development opportunity. Notify teachers that they should arrive at the meeting (or meetings) prepared to write and, quite possibly, share.

STEP 1: Use a notebook. Pose three to five questions from the list below and have participants answer individually in their composition notebooks. You might provide a brief turn-and-talk when participants can share their answers. Ensure there is sufficient, equal talk time in order for everyone's voice to be heard.

  • What characteristics define a successful community?

  • List the characteristics of the communities to which you currently belong.

  • What patterns do you see among those communities you listed?

  • What work do writers do?

  • Define "good" writing.

  • What does a successful writing community look or sound like?

  • Explain whether you believe teachers must be good writers or not.

  • In what ways do you currently share your writing with your students?

  • What are the benefits to writing with and sharing your writing with your students?

STEP 2: Consider grounding the writing practice in research. You might find a peer-reviewed, published article that discusses writing, writer's lives, or ways of connecting personal interests to professional writing lives. Allow individuals enough time to read and respond to the reading. Teachers might also write a reflection in their writer's notebook.

STEP 3: If the group is particularly fearful of writing or sharing their work, you might consider providing a survey to analyze individual beliefs about writing. There are a number of online surveys that can be downloaded. You might also ask some questions like these to guide participants' thinking:

  • Explain whether you believe teachers must be good writers or not.

  • How do your students feel when you ask them to write? What strategies do you use to support them as writers? How do you apply those strategies to your own beliefs about writing?

  • In what ways have you shared or might you share your writing?

STEP 4: It is important that teachers experience the application element of a writing community. Provide time for teachers to consider how they might apply any of the writing ideas to their own classroom. This could be facilitated through writing or discussion.

STEP 5: Allow time for reflection. The group should identify some take-aways from the process:

  • What did you learn?

  • What will you apply?

  • What do you want to remember as you move forward?

  • What will you leave behind?




To build an effective writing community school-wide, a shared value system must be understood and established. For a detailed approach to establishing a shared value system, download the Step-by-Step Guide now!