Writing is a challenge for most students – in fact it's a challenge for most people! Daily practice is essential and in my classroom I always teach a daily writing workshop.
This is a writing-specific example of my lesson planning and delivery process.
Time for writing
We often begin by meeting in the “front yard” (the green carpet at the front of my room), where I usually read a mentor text and ask students to comment on what the author accomplished. If I choose the book well, a student will invariably hit upon the lesson for the day.
I share the targets that we are to accomplish in our writing unit or I share the rubric that I’ll be using. Then we head into a modeled write… or if this is their first experience with the genre, I’ll do a guided write.
The process of introducing a new writing topic is very intentional, and it may take three or sometimes four days to finish.
Let's take it one day at a time, assuming that we start on a Monday.
Day-by-day through writing instruction
- Share mentor text.
- Students note what the author did using Smart board or chart paper.
- Review goals.
- Brainstorm topic for a guided write that fits genre purpose and audience. Ensure students pick a very small topic that lends itself to a quick group write.
- Start rough draft as a group.
- Finish rough draft.
- Revise and edit.
- Review process so far.
- Score group work or guided write as a class.
- Final review of mentor text and group/guided write.
- Begin work on individual write.
- Provide prompt (if desired) and allow time for brainstorming.
~ ~ ~
- Review brainstorms and choose topic.
- Allow lots of talking and sharing time as students choose topics and narrow their writing ideas.
The following days slow down the writing process and include mini-lessons on language and grammar or other lessons that are necessary for the work students are doing.
I often use a clipboard and call small groups of students back to our work table to check in on their writing and help guide them as they progress.
Video tips: elementary writing activities for engagement
Those are the basic steps. Let's see how we can spice things up bit!
Maintaining motivation for writing
Here are several ideas that any elementary teacher can apply to their writing instruction after the work is done. These provide motivation to keep writing all year long.
Think about different ways the children can present their writing rather than simply handing it in and having it corrected and handed back.
For example: Is it possible for them to write a short play that they can then present to the class? It not only works to reinforce their writing but their speaking skills as well.
Allow the children to illustrate their elementary writing activities. Drawing is very compelling to children, and although the assignment should not be focused primarily on illustration, it does keep them more engaged.
If you display these illustrated writing assignments in a prominent place in your room or in a hallway, the students will have the pride of being a “published” author, which reinforces their willingness to work on the next assignment.
Another idea is to have the children correct writing samples in class. Explain your standards up front about how to score a piece of writing, such as having proper punctuation, proper spelling of words, proper paragraph indentation, presenting a main idea and supporting ideas, etc.
Use your document camera to project different writing samples on the screen and discuss what's good and what needs improvement in those samples. This is a tremendous technique for getting them to apply proper writing skills to their own work.
Kids like playing “teacher” and correcting assignments.
Elementary writing prompts
I received a great question about elementary writing prompts and homework from a reader in Algeria. Her problem? Lack of writing homework completion. Her students just didn't feel motivated to write about the topics she assigned.
The key to getting her students – and yours – to do writing assignments (either in class or at home) is to make the topics extremely interesting to them.
Remember: people in general dislike writing. A lot. Why? Because it's hard!
Kids are no different, but they can be motivated by engaging elementary writing prompts if you take into consideration their personal interests as well as their ages.
Rule number one: stay narrow
Assigning a general topic, such as writing something about the neighborhood, will never be as engaging to a child as writing about their favorite imaginary pet. Specifics drive engagement, while limiting the scope of the assignment helps students get started more easily.
Still not enough writing enthusiasm? Then get even more narrow by tailoring prompts for each individual child in your classroom rather than giving all of them the same assignment.
For example, if you know that a particular child is very interested in snakes, then that's what he writes about. Others write about horses or rocket ships.
As long as they are focusing on the format that ties to your curriculum (e.g. “informational essay”), then the subject matter is of secondary importance.
Rule number two: get creative
Ideas for elementary writing prompts are all around us at school, and curriculum-based topics often come with “idea generator” words that provide excellent vocabulary to spice up student writing.
For example: If you have been studying a particular type of vocabulary, such as words from nature or math terms or science terms, then your writing assignments can focus on using these particular words. This gives your students a whole list of words that they can automatically include without searching for proper things to write about.
And getting kids started is more than half the battle!
The important thing is to always remember to make the assignment as interesting as possible. Any form of writing will help students master vocabulary, so change things often and try anything.
Writing prompt ideas
- Create rhyming and non-rhyming poetry.
- Author a news article about a local team. Focus on facts.
- Develop an advertisement about a favorite snack. Focus on using descriptive selling words.
- Write different types of words in different colors. Example: All verbs in red to see how they stand out.
- Write with lemon juice, which will disappear on the paper until it is heated over a light bulb.
- Draw and label a treasure map.
- Conduct and summarize an interview of another student or a parent.
- Have each child write one sentence of a story and pass it on to the next student.
And on and on… anything to keep the work interesting. Have a goal for each assignment so they are not writing randomly. In other words, they must include certain words or have a certain number of sentences, etc. Make the assignments interesting but keep them focused on the standards you must teach.
Kids love to be engaged – most of them just don't know it! When teachers develop innovative and fun elementary writing prompts that appeal to children, they are creating eager writers who can't wait to share their thinking.