Teaching writing to children . . . easier said than done. It’s often the first core subject to get glossed over or pushed out as it’s not always a favorite for students or educators. Well, if I have learned anything during my decade of teaching experience it’s to create a writing block that’s kid-friendly. Not only will your kids rise to the occasion and actually look forward to the writing period, but YOU will actually enjoy delivering the material. Here are a few quick tips and tricks that have worked for me over the years.
ADD SOME SILLY
This is my NUMBER ONE tip today. If you make it (silly), they will come. Despite my cruddy Field of Dreams reference, I believe SILLY is the essential element in drawing youngsters into the writing process. My students have ALWAYS loved to write and most of my babes can draft some doozies by the end of the year. I attribute this success to selling the heck out of the process and interjecting oodles of fun into writing lessons. I encourage you to put your “kid hat” on when attempting to plan out your writing block for the week. Think about what would engage your kids and have them giggling. Check out the photos below for a few examples that have worked for me over the years. **NOTE – I tend to get a bit wild in class. You can tone the silly flavor to fit your style 🙂
Movements are a great way to be silly. The best part is that they also provide a kinesthetic and emotional hook that helps kiddos focus on what you are dishin’ their way. Once students learn such movements, the visual trigger is usually all the need to recall that information. Pretty soon that short-term memory will be transferred to long-term. #winning
You can find a bunch of silly sentence practice (including the pages above) as well as related crazy movements hiding in my Super Sentence Writers, Wow Vs. Blah Sentences, and Punctuation Has Personality Packets. **NOTE – I don’t make a habit out of taking photos of myself. However, I can’t get my fur babies to pose for this junk so you are stuck with me 😛
INTERACTION IS KEY
Getting your students actively involved in the process is also critical. Shared writing and group pocket chart lessons are clutch for any primary grade. When kids are working together, engagement increases. **It isn’t too difficult to re-construct these lessons. If you are looking for print-n-go sets, those shown below can all be found in the writing collections listed in the section above.
Incorporating student photos into the mix is a stellar secret weapon. There are so many ways you can use this idea – sentences, poetry, paragraphs, etc. Here are just a few ways I have utilized photos in the past. My all time favorite lesson each and every year revolves around that wild as all get out TOP picture shown below >>> MY BESTSELLER ON TPT.
Finally, sharing work is a great way to encourage interaction in writing. Author’s Chair is an easy thing to skip over at the end of a lesson. But, I am going to make a quick case for leaving it in the plans. You don’t have to have everyone share. Pull sticks, take volunteers, or have your VIP pick a handful of kids. Just keep a record of who did and didn’t share their work. If your time is super limited, try a PAIRIN’ & SHARIN’ activity. Invite your students to stand up behind their desks with their writing in hand. Have them shuffle around the room until you holler out PAIR & SHARE (I like to put on a music track during this process — CLICK HERE to see what I use.) Students then locate a partner (closest to them) and take turns reading their work. I typically switch 3 times. This gives everyone a chance to show off their writing and it supports reading fluency too 🙂
MAKE IT WEARABLE
People. I’m telling you. MAKE IT WEARABLE. Kids will be eating out of the palm of your hand when they know they are creating something that they get to play with later. The best part is that they have to rock the writing portion of the activity BEFORE they get to the making/crafty fun. It always provides just the right amount of incentive — quality goes through the roof. Tossing one of these in every few months will SO up your writing game – PROMISE. How do you wear work, you ask? Let me show you . . .
This is just one way to wear work. You can make hats, necklaces, paper bag vests, shoe tags, arm bands, etc. The possibilities are endlgess. The Super Sentence Capes lesson (shown above) is part of my Super Sentence Writers packet. Check it out in more detail HERE.
PROP IT UP
Supporting your writing lessons/activities with props or real items is always a good idea. Working with real items allows students build on prior-knowledge before beginning the writing process. You can play this one straight and just show items or you can get a little more “out of the box” with this one. If you follow me, you know I don’t deliver my message in the most conservative fashion. For example, if you’re writing about a pumpkin you could just sit calmly on the carpet and explore the thing together. OR, you can make a big dramatic production out of it . . . cutting it in half, rippin’ out the guts, and having the kids reach their hands inside. Yeah, I know. I can’t help myself. However, either way you spin it, the kids will produce better writing . . . guaranteed.
Other props I have used in the past include everything from wigs and fangs, to umbrellas and leaves. One of my ALL TIME favorite prop lessons has proven to be a gem over the years — a plastic pirate hook. Have your kiddos met Captain Question Mark? He’s a stellar bloke and your kids will NEVER forget which way to face that hooked punctuation mark. READ MORE ABOUT THIS IDEA HERE.
Offering your students different WRITING BLOCK ONLY tools is my final tip today. Providing special items that the kids can only use when writing is a powerful hook. If they are excited to use the tool, this stimulation transfers into the writing process. In first grade, I always begin by switching out the erasers and pencils to meet the season. The Dollar Store and Oriental Trading are your friends. For a few bucks, I can provide Halloween or Christmas pencils and erasers that come out ONLY during the writing block. They don’t keep these in their desks either. I collect them after each period. Kids get to select a new pencil and eraser to use before most new writes INSIDE THE BLOCK. It only takes a few minutes and it’s an easy step to incorporate while you are passing out the papers. **NOTE . . . If I am short on time, I pass out the items or we skip it for the day. I probably work it in 3 out of the 5 days we have structured writing time. In centers they use their own tools.**
When we jump into paragraph writing after Christmas (January or February depending on the crew), I always up the ante. I splurge and bring in MECHANICAL PENCILS. The kids dang near lose their minds when these come out. Paragraph writing is involved. It take a L-O-N-G time for many of our students. So, why not provide an engaging tool that distracts from this pain? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had kids cheer when it’s paragraph writing time. (I use the same pass out process as above as student desks tend to eat pencils.)
Finally, the type of paper you use can be highly engaging. No . . . seriously. If you change the delivery just ever so slightly, it’s novel and new. This leads to higher engagement and better behavior 🙂 Your kids will write their hearts out if you sell it right. For example, when we start using lined paper in the spring, I market the crud out of it. I weave this story about how they get to use BIG KID paper now. I always fib and say that they are one of the few classes in the history of first grade to get to use such paper because they are such amazing writers. (Okay, so shoot me . . . BUT, what they don’t know won’t hurt them . . . and it WILL HELP YOU!)
There are oodles of other paper tricks that you can use to help support the cause. Think about tossing in a writing template that’s copied on brightly colored paper from time to time. Let them write in a tiny notebook that they get to keep when finished. Give them sentences strips to glue together to make a GIGANTIC story. If you can write on it . . . use it!
Don’t want to spend extra cash? You can create your own mini book with THIS FREE TEMPLATE. Simply run the pages back to back and use folded construction paper for the cover. If you can get your hands on a book stapler it ups the game even more as it looks like a real book. If not, just staple down the sides as close to the edge as possible. This is quick and CHEAP way to sell the idea of being REAL and AMAZING authors. These especially work well in Kinder (shown below) and first grade. The file contains two writing choices and a cover option.
Alright, so there you have it. A post all about simple tweaks you can make to transform your writing block into a kid-friendly zone that students AND teachers actually enjoy. If you have other ideas that have worked for you, feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear them!
Thanks for taking the time to visit. I’ll see you again soon.