Writing is such an essential skill in life, but I feel like it is often one of the most neglected subjects in schools. I think this is in a large part due to students' aversion to writing. I don't know about you, but for my students, writing was a tough subject. It was often like pulling teeth. But, when I made some changes to how I ran my writing block, it became the favorite part of the day for some of my students. So, if you find that your students (or even you) are dreading writing block, try some of these ideas.
Establish a routine of writing
This seems simple, but I know teachers who thought of writing block as the period they didn't really have to plan much for or as a lesson they could leave out if they were pressed for time. I am guilty of this myself. But, establishing a routine of writing in your class is one of the best things you can do to help your students love it.
Students become writers by actually writing. They need the practice. So, expect your students to write regularly, and plan the time for them to do so! The more they practice, the easier writing will become for them. When writing starts to come more naturally, they will enjoy doing it more.
Writing can be applied to any subject, so use this to your advantage. Have your students write not just during the writing block, but during reading, math, and science block. Have them write about how they solved a problem, or what they observed in an experiment. Have them write about their thoughts on a book or an issue in the news. It is easy to integrate, and it will help your students to see the importance of writing.
Help them see their growth
Writing can be a difficult subject to track growth in, but it is vital for the students to see that they improve. Have the students produce a writing piece at the beginning of the year and use this to show growth in the future writing that they do. Hold regular writing conferences with your students and give them positive feedback. Point out the things they have improved on since the beginning of the year. You can even pull out that first writing sample they wrote and show them how they have grown. This much needed encouragement will give your students the motivation to keep writing.
Play to their interests
Knowing your students and their interests is important not only for building a close classroom community, but also for helping your students to learn. When students are motivated, their reception of the content skyrockets. Let your students write about things that interest them. You can assign topics to the whole class that involve a general interest of the class, or you can have the students perform more self-directed writing tasks.
Reading and writing are intertwined, and when a love of one is developed, a love of the other often follows. The more they read, the more ideas they have to write about. Reading also shows your students how writing should look, so as they read more, the skills will transfer over to their writing.
Carefully choose mentor texts
Mentor texts can be a great tool for developing writing skills in your students, so thoughtfully choose them. The mentor text should not only be well-written and exhibit the writing skill or concept you are teaching, but it should also be engaging. Choose something goofy or funny every once in awhile. Show students that writing can be fun! Giving students an example that they want to work towards will give them something to aspire to.
Let them be creative
Kids are so creative, but they are also so impressionable. It is critical that you help your students to grow their creativity and not to lose it, because if they lose it now, it will be so much harder for them to get it back. Having overly structured writing time can impede this creativity. Give your students time to be creative and write what they want. Maybe this means starting each writing period with a short free write to get your students thinking, or maybe it means giving wacky prompts.
Picture prompts are one fun way to get your students thinking originally. Simply show the students a picture; the more random or uncertain the better. Have them write about it and see what they come up with. Your students will never cease to surprise you.
Another fun activity to encourage creativity is word dump. This will keep your students from saying, "I don't know what to write," or "I can't think of anything!" Have your students pull out their writing journals. You can have them write about a topic you are working on, or you can leave it up to them. Set a timer and have them write for the whole time. During this time they can't stop writing. They write whatever comes to their mind. Remind students that this is just to help them get ideas. It doesn't need to be perfect, in fact, it isn't supposed to be. Once the timer goes off, they put down their pencils. Your students will have written a rough draft without even knowing it. Now, this will be a very rough draft, and a lot of it will probably even get scrapped, but there will be ideas in there that your students can use to fuel their writing.
Provide time for them to share their writing
Sharing is one of the most forgotten steps of the writing process. Along with publishing your work, comes sharing it with others, yet we often neglect to let our students do so. Allowing your students to share their writing with others will help them to take ownership for their work, and if you establish a supportive classroom community, it will help them to keep writing.
Make sure that the expectations for sharing are clear, though. Your students need to know that when people share their work, it is not a time to make fun of them for their writing, it is a time to encourage them and compliment them for what they did well.
Don't force your students to share their work. If you consistently give your students time to share their work, eventually even some of your shy students will want to share. When I regularly provided time for my students to share their writing, it became their favorite part of writing.
Writing can be hard for students, but it can also be hard for teachers. I know that some of you don't feel like you write well, so teaching it is even worse. But, as you invest the time in planning your writing time and acting excited about writing to help your students love it, you will also grow a love for it.
Teachers, I know that you have plenty of great ideas, so tell me, how do you instill a love of writing in your students?
I love task cards. They are so versatile so you can use them again and again. Plus, many task cards on TpT come with an answer sheet or QR codes, so it makes it really easy for students to get immediate feedback.
Here are 7 ways to use task cards so you can use them frequently without your students getting tired of them.
Summer has flown by! I can't believe it is already time to head back to school. It's crunch time and I know a lot of you are rushing to get everything prepared for your new class. There is just so much to think about: setting up your classroom, creating management plans, prepping for meet the teacher and back to school night, and on top of all of that, planning lessons.
I also have a pack with morning work for every week of the year!!! The pack has writing prompts for both lower and upper grades and helps your students to keep a journal about their weekends. Each Monday (or the first day of the school week if there was a holiday), I had my students write in their journal about their weekend. Then, we would have a morning meeting and each student got to share one thing they wrote. The kids LOVED sharing what they did and it helped to build my class' community.
Starting this routine from the very beginning helps to build your classroom community and your students' writing skills!
And to further alleviate the stress on you and on your wallet, here are TWO freebies that you can use in your class!
Freebie #1: Hall Passes
Hall passes are a great way to keep track of your students, and there are so many ways you can use them. Here are just a few ideas:
Freebie #2: Fast Finisher Posters
If you're tired of being asked "What do I do now?" these posters are perfect for your class. You can hang all of them up on your wall for your students to refer to, or your can use a magnet to hang the ones you want your students to be doing up on the whiteboard, so they are easy to change when you need.
I hope that these will help you to spend less time setting up your class, so you have more time to mentally prep yourself for the coming school year!
With the first day of school drawing nearer, I know many of you are thinking about how you want to manage your class this year. One of the first things I teach my students is the attention signal for our class. As teachers, we already have to talk so much, and having to raise your voice every time you want your students' attention will not only wear out your voice, it will wear out your students. Attention signals are critical to managing your classroom, and if you teach them to your students from the beginning, you will save your sanity in the coming months of the school year.
WHAT IS AN ATTENTION SIGNAL?
An attention signal is something you use to get students' attention. It can be a short saying, song, or series of actions such as clapping. Attention signals can be used when your students are working and you need them to stop, when they are not following directions and you need to redirect them, or in any other instance when you need them to be quiet and listen to you.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR ATTENTION SIGNAL?
When deciding what attention signal to use, you want to pick something that will be effective and efficient. Your prompt should actually get your students' attention, and it should be short. Long attention signals take away from valuable instruction time and they can even lose the students' attention in the process.
No matter what prompt you choose, always make sure that when you teach it, you also teach your students to stop what they are doing and look at the teacher. I try to pick prompts that have actions integrated to help the students do that.
One prompt I use is:
Teacher: “Hands on top.”
Students: (Put both hands on top of head.) “Everybody stop.”
I love this attention signal because it forces the students to put down what they are working on so they aren’t tempted to continue what they are doing. I can also easily tell who is not giving me their full attention.
Some other prompts I use are:
Teacher: “1, 2, 3, eyes on me."
Students: “1, 2, eyes on you.”
Teacher: “Macaroni and cheese.”
Students: “Everybody freeze.” (Freeze in the position they are in.)
Now that you have a better idea of what attention prompts should look like, here are the steps that I use to teach them.
ONE LAST TIP
Don’t have too many attention signals in your classroom. This overloads the students and is unnecessary. At the beginning of the year, I only use one prompt. Eventually, students tire of hearing you say the same thing to get their attention, so make sure you switch it up! If I sense that my students are not responding as well to the prompt later in the year, I teach another one. Then I have a few attention prompts that I can choose from to keep my students on their toes.
So, as you get ready for the first day, make sure you think through exactly what you expect your students to do when you give them your signal, and don’t lower your expectations. Your kiddos will get it with practice.
If you have an attention signal that works great in your class, please share it in the comments. The more ideas the better!
Hi! I'm Mackenzie. Teacher, wife, and Washingtonian. Check out my blog to get ideas and products for your class.
© Mackenzie Allen 2016.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.