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P.K. Yonge School Previews the New Being a Writer, Third Edition

As we look ahead to the Summer 2024 publication of the new Being a Writer, Third Edition, we’re delighted to share a preview of Being a Writer in actual classrooms, with real students and teachers.

Collaborative Classroom takes implementation of our programs seriously. As part of our pre-publication work, we regularly ask key partner schools to teach new programs in order to ensure that our implementation supports are as robust as possible.

This school year (2023–24), veteran educators Stacey Abeyta and Sue Wilder are guiding pre-publication implementations of the new third edition of Being a Writer on opposite sides of the country.

In Florida, P.K. Yonge School is implementing Being a Writer for their fourth graders under the guidance of Sue Wilder.

A retired Florida public school educator with experience at the school, district, and university level, Sue has worked with Collaborative Classroom programs for 20+ years. She has also had the joy of learning alongside P.K. Yonge faculty to support implementation of Collaborative Classroom programs.

Photo of Sue Wilder

About P.K. Yonge School

P.K. Yonge is a K–12 Developmental Research School that is publicly funded by the Florida Department of Education and is uniquely positioned in the College of Education at the University of Florida. Its mission since its establishment in 1934 has been to design, test, and disseminate innovations in K–12 education. As such, P.K. Yonge impacts educators, school leaders, and other schools around the state and the nation by providing evidence for K–12 educational innovation. P.K. Yonge has been recognized by US News & World Report numerous times and is ranked among the Best High Schools in 2021.

The school strives to serve all students while facing the same challenges and constraints that confront all public schools in Florida. Their status as a one-school school district makes it possible to develop and pilot creative educational solutions in response to never-ending demands and based on new research findings. 

Sue Wilder, when you reflect on the early months of P.K. Yonge’s implementation of Being a Writer, what comes to mind?

The teachers appreciate the similarities between the second edition of Being a Writer and the new edition. They feel very comfortable with the design and structure of the materials and the lessons because of the familiarity across programs.

At the same time, they also really welcomed the changes in the new program, specifically the use of digital publishing and the new approach to embedded grammar instruction. 

Students likewise appreciate that the program feels familiar and builds on what they have been learning as readers and writers across the grades. We see the evidence of prior learning right alongside new learning every day as students write and talk about writing.

Students collaborate during a Being a Writer lesson
“We see the evidence of prior learning right alongside new learning every day as students write and talk about writing.”

Students were especially excited about revising, editing and publishing their first piece in the Writing Process Unit using computers.

Students were especially excited about revising, editing and publishing their first piece in the Writing Process Unit using computers.

This change was incredibly motivating and resulted in higher-quality writing than teachers had seen in the past. Students were really proud and excited to share their published pieces with one another and anyone else who would listen to them read. 

Tell us where students were when they started this journey? Feel free to share about students in general or about a particular student, if one comes to mind.

One student who comes to mind for me is pictured below. His teacher shared with me that he often struggles with what to write about.

On the day this photo was taken, the class was working in one of the early lessons in the Personal Narrative Unit. After hearing an essay from Childtimes by Eloise Greenfield, the students were asked to write about an early memory. He immediately started writing this piece about a time when his mom and sister went on a trip, and he and his dad had a different adventure. The photo was taken less than a minute into the writing time.

During a Being a Writer lesson, a student writes about an early memory.
“After hearing an essay from Childtimes by Eloise Greenfield, the students were asked to write about an early memory. This student immediately started writing this piece about a time when his mom and sister went on a trip and he and his dad had a different adventure.”

Have there been particular highlights or surprises so far in the pilot? What challenges have you encountered as you got off the ground?

So many highlights! During my observations of lessons in the Personal Narrative Unit, not one student struggled with coming up with an idea for writing. They transitioned from the Getting Ready to Write part of the lesson to the Writing Time portion and wrote for the full 20 minutes. They could have written longer. 

During my observations of lessons in the Personal Narrative Unit, not one student struggled with coming up with an idea for writing.

During the Sharing and Reflecting portion, students were excited to share what they had written with their partners and were eager to talk with genuine curiosity about one another’s writing. 

Students sit on a rug, brainstorming ideas for writing during a Being a Writer lesson.
“During my observations of lessons in the Personal Narrative Unit, not one student struggled with coming up with an idea for writing.”

When I’m in classrooms, I try to listen to as many students as possible read their writing. Sometimes these opportunities happen during formal writing conferences, sometimes through more informal ones, and sometimes when students are sharing with their partners or with the class.

I think one of the things that has impressed me most is how each student’s voice resonates throughout their writing. These are not cookie cutter paragraphs or formulaic essays; the pieces these students are crafting remind me of literature, each one unique. 

I think one of the things that has impressed me most is how each student’s voice resonates throughout their writing. These are not cookie cutter paragraphs or formulaic essays; the pieces these students are crafting remind me of literature, each one unique. 

Are there particular pieces of student work that you’d like to share? What is meaningful or noteworthy about it? 

In the photo below, I love that this student used a strategy he’s learned from reading other authors to entice readers to read his book.

To me it shows that he cares enough about his writing to try a strategy that he hopes will engage his readers. It also makes me think that he knows some things about his audience and he cares enough about them to make his writing appealing to them. 

The cover of a piece of student writing with the headline, Please Do Not Open This Book

You know the second edition of Being a Writer well. As you teach third edition, what are you noticing about this new edition of the program? What do you appreciate about it? 

The latest version of Being a Writer has been exciting for both students and teachers. The weekly, embedded skills and grammar lessons, diverse range of outstanding literature, support for multilingual learners, pre-teaching supports, extensions, and integration of digital tools and resources are all invaluable revisions. 

What’s notable for me has been the significant impact of the weekly skills and grammar lessons. Students actively participate, producing sophisticated and authentic work, and teachers are gaining confidence that they are teaching essential foundational writing skills to their students.

What’s notable for me has been the significant impact of the weekly skills and grammar lessons. Students actively participate, producing sophisticated and authentic work, and teachers are gaining confidence that they are teaching essential foundational writing skills to their students.

A page of student work in writing skills and grammar.

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Read about another pre-publication implementation of Being a Writer, Third Edition, at Prospect Sierra School in California.

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