Help Students Discover Their Writer’s Mindset

By Chris Hall

There was also something that didnt sit best with the entire approach of writing procedure and workshop. There was definitely nothing incorrect with mentor trainees that composing is a procedure (i.e., prewriting, preparing, revising, editing, publishing) and revealing them the structures of the workshop model (e.g., minilessons, conferences, shares, and foreseeable writing times). The problem was where these approaches focused my gaze as a teacher.

When I took a look at my trainees at their best– and at my own experience as a writer– I recognized that modification was taking place throughout the writing, not simply after completion. I saw it occurring with my trainees throughout preparing– in micro- and macro-changes that writers were attempting before, during, and after composing each line. My writers were stopping periodically to evaluate and reread their words, making adjustments small and huge along the method.

I often presented revision as something to face after the first draft was over. A phase in the composing procedure– a step right after drafting and right before modifying. I had been taught to wait until after the very first draft was total to have my students modify, but that seemed too late.

Its the end of June, and we teachers are running on fumes. For me though, its also the time when Im reflecting about what worked– and what didnt– over the past year.

It was their openness to a new technique or propensity to take the perspective of a prospective reader. Their capability to transfer one skill they had discovered to a completely new category or draft. Their willingness to take a risk in order to extend themselves as writers.

I felt like I was stumbling upon a brand-new meaning for revision, by gazing at the students right in front of me. Modification was about what was happening in the frame of mind of the author, during the writing procedure, not simply on the page, after it was done.

The method I had been taught composing process and workshop put my emphasis firmly on the writing. Makes sense, however it seemed to me that there were things to be discovered at the other end of the pencil– in my students themselves.

A couple of Junes earlier, I was thinking back about my composing workshop, and I was getting the bothersome feeling that something was awry with the way I was teaching modification.

When I saw my students accepting revision, it wasnt just that they understood craft relocations and had actually learned certain writing abilities (essential as those are). It was their desire– and even enthusiasm– to modify. To determine lines that were working and construct from them. To be knowledgeable about their own responses as they were composing, not just at the end of a draft.

Embracing a composing stance

I was drawn to the term position– coined by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz in A Mindset for Learning (2015)– since it implied a habits my students might adopt, not a repaired, inherent quality they either had or didnt have. Like an all set stance in baseball (knees bent, glove out, eyes on ball), a composing stance indicated a mindful option, a way of approaching modification that we might discover and practice till it became a part of us. Motor memory for authors.

Influenced by the state of mind research of Carol Dweck (2006) and the Habits of Mind work of Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick (2008 ), I started to observe and call the behaviors my students were showing when we remained in the thick of a culture of revision.

Which habits– which positions– were most essential for moving us beyond revision resistance? After I distilled elements from the Habits of Mind and other work, the essential parts of a writers state of mind revealed themselves. Following are the stances that emerged in my class and students:

Some trainees were drawn to the strengths of their draft (rather than concentrated on its imperfections) and developed off what was already working. This optimism helped move them forward through the effort of modification. In looking at the positive elements of their writing, these trainees frequently remained confident, engaged, and consistent– even when they struck challenging areas in the process.



Not only did Alja produce a more powerful lead, however her metacognition– her self-awareness about her writing throughout the process– would be a resource for her to utilize again and once again, a little voice she could listen to and find out from.

I might see metacognition in my trainee Alja when she was considering loud about her individual story: the mortifying time when she tossed a snowball in an airport parking lot and it went awry, nearly causing her household to miss a flight. Alja felt uncreative by her very first lines and decided they needed changing. Stopping briefly middraft, she understood she wanted to leave her readers with concerns, so she added some interesting lines and held back on other information that could come later in the narrative.

Some trainees understood the decisions they were making in their drafts– what they were trying (their writing moves) and why they were attempting them (their intentions). They were ready and able to see their writing, and their responses to it, plainly and truthfully– focusing on what felt ideal and what sounded off in their emerging drafts. To the places in the composing that stimulated them or failed. To the lines that would be complicated or interesting.

The optimism I saw in trainees like Elly wasnt some chipper, Pollyannaish mindset, but a tendency to invest their energy in what was working and to develop from it. Due to the fact that the writing was worth it, the persistence I saw wasnt white-knuckle tenacity– a show-grit-through-the-misery technique– but a desire to work through the difficulties of revision.

For example, there was Elly, whose quiet optimism shone through even as she had a hard time to describe an oyster shell for a nature poem she was writing. She read her drafts to peers, listened to their remarks, and kept attempting to take a look at her shell with brand-new eyes and fresh metaphors.

Perspective-Taking and Connection with the Audience

These trainees forecasted their audiences reactions, and they listened carefully to the actual feedback they got from readers during conferences. These were writers believing like readers.

Perspective-taking was what made Shreya reassess what her script for a social studies discussion on Pearl Harbor needed. Her draft was written in first individual– from the point of view of an American soldier dealing with the surprise attack– however she felt like her lines were too informative.


As the year progressed, Leas sensations about revision moved as she began to see its value and trust us as readers. Taking a more open stance and listening to other ideas was a gradual– and far from simple– process for Lea, however she came to see it was well worth the effort.

For instance, there was Vincent, who took the risk to try something he had actually never ever done prior to as an author: taking on a different point of view. For his poem, “Poison Ivy,” Vincent imagined the three-leafed scourges perspective: “Im innocent/ Dont I look friendly?/ I actually enjoy playing/ … Maybe three might be your lucky number!”

Flexible Thinking

Possibly none of my trainees showed as great a change in versatile thinking as Lea. When approached with essentially any remark about her writing, she began the year irritable and closed off. Lea excitedly churned out ten-page dream stories, however if a classmate voiced any question or confusion, she bristled, “I like it the method it is!”

Other writers played with fresh concepts and willingly took risks to stretch beyond what they might currently do. They permitted themselves to be vulnerable, pushing the limits of what they had actually attempted previously– experimenting with brand-new genres, narrators, story structures, endings, and more. Rather than hurrying to finish a draft, they wanted to cope with unpredictability in order to have fun with possibility.

There were trainees who were mindful of the fantastic writing abilities and craft moves they had formerly discovered and were purposefully moving these to brand-new pieces and situations. Jack learned about including interior monologue– a characters inner ideas– from one of his peers. Jack had checked out a piece by Alyssa, that included some conflicted and rather funny thoughts about accepting ride a frightening roller rollercoaster with her papa. After reading her story, Jack pinpointed what she had done (even if he struggled to call the craft move).

I also noticed the students who could easily enter their readers shoes– to see their own writing from another viewpoint. They expected what their imagined audience may need or feel while reading their draft– the locations where they may be puzzled, the background info readers would need for clearness, the information that would be most appealing to them.

He then set out to utilize a comparable method in his piece about a scooter crash, a time when he misjudged a ramp at a skate park. Keeping in mind of what he liked in Alyssas writing, Jack chose to include some effective lines of interior monologue to his own draft– his thoughts about whether to bail or try a dangerous landing out on his scooter.

Teaching Lea reminded me what a vulnerable act writing is and how its no easy task for an author to trust their readers. It requires time to build a relationship, and it takes feedback thats really encouraging and helps authors to discover their own method. Kids like Lea– everyone, really– need to know that modification doesnt suggest deference or submission, however an imaginative back-and-forth in between fellow authors.


I observed students who would hold off on stating, “Im done,” who remained open to originalities, methods, and feedback. They showed an interest and confidence to try something novel with their writing– and a humility to acknowledge these terrific concepts might come from others.

Teaching about the writers mindset

Metacognition. Where could you begin teaching about a writers frame of mind this coming year? Which stance might you start with?

As you refill your teaching tank this summertime, think about these possibilities for promoting metacognition with your trainee authors next year:

Instead of providing a beginning-of-the-year survey, a selfie is an imaginative way for trainees to answer concerns like these. Open the choices and permit trainees to pick various formats for their selfie– possibly a letter, series of vignettes, poem, or graphic book.

► Ask trainees to develop a “composing selfie” to assess their writing identity. A writing selfie is a literary self-portrait in which students share who they are as an author– their earliest composing memories, significant writing jobs, their individual writing procedure, and more. What are a few of their memories of writing in and out of school? Were the composing experiences unfavorable or mostly positive? How do they feel as a writer? What inspires them to compose, or what do they delight in about composing? What makes writing tough or discouraging for them? What assists them as writers (and what doesnt)?

► Have students review their modifications mid-draft with a “thoughtcast.” Instead of having students finish a procedure history at the end of a final draft, ask them to pause during preparing for a process present. Ask:

Chris worked as a Heinemann Fellow, looking into ingenious composing practices within a cohort of dynamic educators from across the nation. You can find him on Twitter at @CHallTeacher.

How did you develop this concept, or why did you decide to compose about it?
Whats going well so far? What lines or parts are you delighted about?
What are locations that dont appear rather right, where youre having a hard time to catch your concepts or emotions?
What modifications have you made so far? Why did you make them?
What will you attempt next as an author to modify this piece?

Chris Hall teaches language arts at Oyster River Middle School in Durham, NH. Over the past 20 years he has taught in metropolitan, suburban, public, independent, and worldwide schools, where he has actually assisted young authors discover genuine function, construct neighborhood, and find the power of their own words.

There was definitely absolutely nothing incorrect with mentor students that writing is a procedure (i.e., prewriting, drafting, modifying, editing, publishing) and revealing them the structures of the workshop model (e.g., minilessons, conferences, shares, and foreseeable composing times). When I saw my trainees embracing revision, it wasnt simply that they knew craft relocations and had learned certain writing abilities (important as those are). ► Ask trainees to produce a “composing selfie” to show on their writing identity. A writing selfie is a literary self-portrait in which students share who they are as a writer– their earliest composing memories, significant composing jobs, their personal writing procedure, and more. It makes our unseen writing relocations noticeable for trainees and assists them envision their own.

Using free online screencasting tools (such as Screencastify), have your students develop a thoughtcast– a screencast explaining the choices and moves they are making in genuine time on a draft. Have them open a draft on a laptop computer and, utilizing the screencasting software, respond to the questions above using audio or video commentary.

For more details about the methods and ideas shared in this post, check out his new book for grades 3-8, The Writers Mindset: 6 Stances That Promote Authentic Revision (Heinemann, 2022).

Concerns like these focus trainees on what they are trying in the here and now– and may attempt in the future. The reflections can be casual (e.g., an exit slip or turn-and-talk), but one interesting way to catch them is with a screencast.

Job your piece and examine it aloud in front of your students, reacting to a few of the exact same concerns above. Which lines leave us stimulated? What relocations are we attempting and why? What aspects of our draft are we still unsure about? What might we try next? Answering these draws the curtain back on our own internal dialogue as authors. It makes our hidden writing relocations noticeable for trainees and helps them picture their own.

We know its essential to compose along with our trainees. Use a think aloud to show the choices you are grappling with as writer on an unpolished and fresh draft (just as we ask our students to do).

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