Kickstarting Writing

This year I am not teaching writing.  Consequently, every time I think about a new post for this blog, I can only think about writing.  Makes sense, right?

My second year of teaching, I had a boy who laid down his head and cried every day for a week when it was time to write because he had nothing to write about.  It took me almost a full two weeks to convince him that maybe, just maybe he had some stories to tell.

That story makes me smile when I think about it, but the truth is "the idea" is terrifying for kids.  Spending time at the beginning of the year teaching kids had to find stories in their own lives is invaluable.

Here are some of my favorite ways to get kids started with writing:

All good stories are good stories because they have strong feelings in them.  Instead of starting off with the idea, have your kids think about feelings instead.  Read more about this lesson here.

Writing is scary. Drawing isn't.  (Except for my drawing.  This is frighteningly awful.)
One of the problems kids have is trying to tell the story of their entire summer or trip to the beach or last school year.  It's simply too big and overwhelming.  A picture helps them narrow that story down to a small moment.  And a post it note keeps that drawing short and sweet.  Read this post to see how I had kids orally rehearse their stories.  Did you like that?  It was fancy talk for I had them use the picture to tell the story to a partner before writing it.  Mention that in your next PD though, and people will think you're really smart.

Let them be boring. 
Yep.  Let them be boring.  You have all year to teach them how to mine great stories from their lives.  Teach them how to turn their boring stories into interesting stories.

I have wished a hundred times that I could remember where I read this quote.  I used it so many times in my classroom because it is The. Truth.

Happy writing!

My Favorite Writing Lessons

I'm back in the saddle!  Sort of.  After taking most of last year off, I'm going back to the classroom part time.  I'll be working with reading and math small groups.  I filled in for this position for two months last year, and I'm very excited about it, but it got me thinking about how much I'll miss teaching writing.  I feel like writing was the last and hardest piece of my teaching pie.  It's just so darn hard.  I feel like I finally got a handle on it and actually started enjoying it, and now I'm not teaching it.

Four of my all time favorite writing lessons for third and fourth grade!

Show Don't Tell
This is one of my favorite favorite favorite lessons!  Wish it was my idea though.  I read about it on Miss Radka's Rhapsody's blog.  It was such a fun lesson, the kids loved it, and we referred back to it all year long.

Persuasive Writing
Then there was the time I used my dead dog to teach.  Um, yea.  I've always felt like kids get really into persuasive writing if they feel strongly about the topic.  When my husband's cranky old lady dog died, our other dog needed a buddy.  I did not do this until my husband was actually ready for another dog.  I'm not that bad of a wife.
Expository Writing
My students were a little overwhelmed by the idea of expository writing.  Even the name is a little scary.  So, they planned their first essay as groups of three, and then each wrote a piece.  It did not make for a pretty final product, but it helped them dip their toes in the water and get their first essay behind them.  Again, not my idea.  This one was stolen from my sister who teaches ninth grade English.  Some ideas are just good ideas not matter what the grade.
The Longest Writing Unit Ever
I'm pretty sure anyone who was reading my blog at the time was ready for this unit to be over, but I loved it!  You can read about it here, here, and here.  I would have written more, but I felt sorry for everybody.