Students look forward to Creative Writing Friday's. Our school lets out an hour earlier on Friday's, which lends itself nicely to having a unique Friday afternoon schedule.
A teacher facilitates a class meeting in circle format on the floor. Here, students can offer ideas to get the creative juices flowing and inspire children who might not have an idea yet. It's not a commitment, just a chance to share.
The teacher asks students who are interested in writing independently (alone) to stand up, then dismisses them at one time to get a paper and pencil and begin writing.
This leaves the rest of the class (for us, it's the majority) who want to write with someone. Our process for fair selection is that the teacher will choose a student to stand up and that student will stand in front of their peer that they want to write with and then they will merrily go on their way to write a story. This is to allow students who "would not get picked," to get the chance to choose or allow students who don't have strong writing abilities to choose someone who does. A large emphasis must be made ahead of time to the class about the mannerisms and challenge of not getting the person you might have in your mind. It is through careful modeling and social discussions in circle time that allow us to get there.
The teacher begins to choose a student to stand up and choose the person they want to write with. The teacher has to carefully select students and let the rest of the group unfold. For students that struggle with this selection process or hurt another students feelings will need careful coaching and a conversation about the next week. For example, a natural consequence would be "you were not respectful to the person who chose you, so next week you will need to write by yourself." Usually we have 1-2 students who really struggle but learn quickly. The 2nd and 3rd years know the drill and the 1st years quickly learn. It's just about consistency and expectations of how we treat people in our classroom family. It goes well! Don't worry.
The role of the teacher at this time is to facilitate that all of the groups are working well together. Students are asked to not ask a teacher "how is this spelled," but to do the best they can and will get help with that on Monday when we return. Some students might need a teacher near to remind them to use a respectful voice, but this can be done ahead of time and reminding students that when 10 groups need to discuss their story with their partner, the sound can add up and so a whisper voice will need to be used. There is a time limit to write too, so most students are busy writing to meet this time limit- especially if they are motivated to share their stories- which is up next!
In our classroom, we have a bookshelf that faces into the inner circle space. We also have a portable "podium," that can fit on the shelf. This allows a student or two to stand at the podium and present their story to their peers. In our classroom, we give students the options whether they want to share or not. If they do, they keep their paper with them and place them on the floor so they can be attentive to the person reading. The teacher will call on a student or group to read their story aloud. The students will stand up to the podium and say, "May I have your attention please?" or call on individual students to "please look at me." Once they feel respected, they will begin. Only if the story is inappropriate or hurtful- will the teacher step in. Sometimes students who simply are not ready to read will want to share and then a teacher could step in and read to the best of their ability. We hold applause until all of the students who want to share have shared, so it is culminating and a good transition into dismissal.
Since our Creative Writing day is on a Friday, it lends itself well to have the weekend to check 10-33 writing pieces. We use a special kind of paper for student writing, that has a green line, white line, etc. Students write on one of the colors, so that the teacher can make edits right above. The size of the individual lines are also pretty large, helpful for students who struggle to write in a small margin. Depending on the age group of the student or their ability level, sometimes the teacher might not correct spelling right on the document. This can give older students a chance to use resources, such as a spelling dictionary to seek the correct spelling.
The Montessori environment does not feature "word walls," which is a common sight in an elementary public school classroom. In our classroom, we utilize a writing tool called the "Personal Dictionary." Beginning students use an index card box with alphabetized labels. When a student writes a word misspelled on their stories and a teacher corrects it, the student will write the correct version on their letter card for their personal dictionary box. The advanced students use a small spiral notebook with tabs of each letter. The lines are very small for young students to write on, so I usually wait until these students can write in a more refined way. If a word is already in their dictionary, for example, "once" but they keep misspelling it wrong, I will take a note of this and give them another opportunity to practice this spelling word.
Now students are ready to begin their second draft. We have a different style of paper that denotes second draft writing. Once students finish this and it is acceptable, both drafts are stapled together.
Not everything you ever write deserves a "final draft," but some do. If a student is self-motivated to finalize their writing, they have the option to. Some examples might be: