It's Wednesday and the 3rd day in my weeklong birthday SALE-A-BRATION!
Today we're talking all about writing...
I know I've blogged about my writing station several times before so I won't go into great detail about it here. However, I do want to take a minute to tell you how much I love it. I've always had a writing center, but I struggled week-to-week with planning writing activities that kept my kids truly engaged. Keep in mind that my writing center is completely separate from Writer's Workshop. While I love for my kids to choose what they're going to write about, when they visit the writing center I want them to have controlled choice. I think it's important to make sure we don't do all the thinking for them...always providing them with prompts, sentence starters, etc. I'm able to balance that by giving them structured writing opportunities (writing center) and then more of a "write from the heart" stamina building writing time during writers workshop.
If you want to see more of my writing station in detail, you can check it out HERE.
In addition to my writing center, I also keep "write the room" activities available for both math and literacy. These are mostly completed as "fast finisher" activities, but depending on the objective, I will also use them as an extension to an existing word work activity. They love walking around the room, finding their work cards, and jotting down their finds. I personally think the clipboards are the reason they love it so much ;)
Earlier I mentioned that my writing center is separate from the time I give my kids for writers workshop. I don't know what kind of writers my kids would be if I didn't give them time to develop their thoughts, plan their writing, and then write for an extended period of time. Just like kids need time to build their reading stamina, they need time to build their writing stamina, too. We have to give them the time to be able to do that. Trust me when I tell you that I don't think you're a terrible teacher if you're not implementing a writers workshop already. I know time constraints, testing, and crazy schedules can make it hard to give our kids writing time...especially when there's so much else that needs to be taught/reviewed/practiced/tested. I know the struggle!!!
I would love to encourage you to try implementing a dedicated time for writers workshop if you do have 25-30 minutes in your schedule that would allow for it. It can be challenging to establish at the beginning because seeing where our kids start when we know where they need to be by the end of the year can be overwhelming and seem impossible. I can tell you I don't think my kids would progress and write so much as quickly as they do without writers workshop. It's amazing to be able to document their growth over time and share that with the kids...so powerful for them!
If you don't know where to start with writers workshop, or need some new ideas for a fresh start, here are my most favorite resources. Such amazing reads for establishing and growing a writers workshop in your classroom!!!
And while we're talking about resources, I think it's extremely important we keep resources readily available for our kids to refer to when they're writing. I keep my anchor charts posted around my writing center and my kids refer to them all the time. We create these together during a whole group writers workshop minilesson and then display for use.
These are a few resources my kids keep in their desks. THey're used specifically for writers workshop. These checklists are great for keeping kids on task and helping them self correct/self monitor when writing independently. The checklist on the very bottom of the graphic below is great to keep them on track during the writing process. The first visual on that checklist is a light bulb. I have the kids place a counter on top of that light bulb when they're thinking about what they're going to write. Then they move to the little drawing girl when they're sketching, the boy with paper when they're writing, the boy reading when they're editing/rereading their work, and then finally the teacher/students when they're ready to share their writing with me. I can walk around and quickly assess where everyone is in each stage of their writing and help where needed.
The writing checklist is laminated and kept in their desk as well. I have them take these out when they think they're finished with their writing. I want them to check for capitals, spacing, punctuation, etc. and this checklist has really helped them through the editing process. Some of my kids will even keep this checklist visible as they're writing to self monitor as they go along. The WWW.WHAT.HOW is just a mnemonic device I like for them to keep handy as a reminder to add all of those elements to their story. If they can go through the list and check them all off when they reread their story, then it's probably time to share it with me. If they can only check off a few, they need to write a little longer and add a bit more to their story.
As an extension to my daily news, I like to incorporate writing through something I called "daily dish". During this time, I'd have one friend from the class come up to the easel and share his/her news. We'd write it and then talk about the components of the sentence, then I'd have the rest of the class go back to their desks and write a letter to our "daily disher" asking him/her something about his/her news or writing about a connection they could make to the story. The student giving the news would go back to his/her seat and write about the news in a little more detail. I loved this time of the day and loved being able to give my kids additional opportunities to hone their writing skills.
In my 1st grade classroom, I had parents come in each week and help my kids publish their writing. This was a pretty simple process and helped me give my parents something to do when they'd come to help. The kids loved being able to read their stories to the parents...great audience they were!! You can read more about our publishing parents, learn how to set up a publishing basket in your classroom, and grab your publishing basket letter HERE.
Here's one of my most favorite mini-lessons for those first few weeks back to school. Marshmallow spaces! My kids love this activity and I love giving them a tangible experience they can refer back to when they're writing. You can read more about marshmallow spaces HERE.
Last but not least, I wanted to share with you a partner writing activity I share in my creative writing sessions. Start and Finish partners!!! Oh how I LOVE this activity to encourage kids to write creatively. One partner starts the story, the other partner finishes it. I've included a few start/finish scenarios below. My kids love when I let them do this. This isn't an everyday activity, but I'll have them work with a start/finish partner a few times a month and they look forward to it like you wouldn't believe. This makes a great anchor activity (fast finisher), too!
Hope these ideas are helpful for you as you head back to school this year! Writing is so hard to teach and an area where I feel like my instruction can always grow so I know how helpful it is to find different and ideas and approaches to try out in my own classroom :)
And for today's SALE-A-BRATION, all of my writing resources (including those pictured/described above) are 20% OFF today only!!
Have a GREAT day!