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Using Expert Tapes to promote student writing

Building community is an essential but not sufficient part of a reading/writing classroom. If students are to write and receive response from peers, the classroom must be risk-free. Expert Tapes help create a safe classroom environment conducive to sharing student work. They help students get to know one another and begin writing from personal experience for an audience. Also, Expert Tapes make a great impression at an Open House or Curriculum Night.


All you need is a roll of adding machine tape. Tell your students, “We're all good at something. What are you good at?” As you're speaking, slowly begin to unroll the adding machine tape.

“Baseball? Did you say baseball, Frank? How much can you write about baseball?” all the while unrolling the tape until Frank says, “Stop!”

Address each student in the same way asking how much they can write about something they're “an expert at.” After everyone has filled their long strip of paper with all they know about their subject, have everyone share their writing.

Take photographs of every student, attach them to the bottom of each expert tape and display them around the room on Curriculum Night in September.