What are writing partners?
Writing partners are students who are paired together for an extended period of time to explore various aspects of writing. Students learn to share their writing with a partner so they can be part of a community of learners.
Why use them?
By having students talk to partners during the engagement portion of the mini-lesson, I can get more students involved. When I ask a question, I will often say, “Turn and talk to your partner about…” Each partner has time to share. This prevents the phenomenon of a few students doing all of the talking and others sitting back and letting them. My students know that they are all expected to think and share during the mini-lessons. Establish writing partnerships help the writing workshop run more smoothly—when students know exactly who to turn and talk to, there is much less time off task and this ensures that every child has a partner.
Selecting Writing Partners
I ask my students to write their names on a slip of paper and list the names of four students with whom they might like to work. Then I lay all of the slips out and try as hard as possible to match students with someone on the list. I tell them that it may not be possible to match everyone,and if they do not get someone from their list this time, I guarantee that they will the next time. I also try to match students of fairly similar ability.
How long do they stay together?
This is up to your professional judgment. I usually change the partnerships at the beginning of each new unit of study. I know teachers who keep the same partnerships for the entire school year. Certainly if a partnership is not working, it is time to make the change.
Mentor Texts to Introduce Writing Partnerships
Introducing Writing Partners
I found this lesson for introducing writing partners to primary students at this website by Jessica Meacham: Writing Partners. Check out her website for an entire unit on launching the writing workshop.
- Read a chapter from Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Partners by Erica Silverman.
- After reading the book, facilitate a discussion about how Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa helped one another.
- Lead students to the understanding that partnerships are beneficial – we need partnerships.
- Throughout the week, continue reading from the book Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Partners.
- Ask students how having a writing partner can be helpful to them.
- Discuss good ways of helping and improper ways of helping.
- Share with students that during Writing Workshop, they will be sitting next to a writing buddy (partner).
- Share that writing buddies help one another in good ways.
- Share that if help is needed, students should ask their writing buddy for help.
- Ask, “What are some ways we need help during Writer’s Workshop?” (crayon color, spelling, pencil, mini office)
- Ask, “If your writing buddy doesn’t know how to help you, or can’t, what could you do next?”