Writing Ideas

For many teachers, writing is a challenge to teach.  There are many reason for this, but I think that for most of us, it is just so BIG.  There is so much that goes in to good writing that the thought of teaching it is simply daunting.   I know for a long time, that was the case in my room too.  That is, until I figured out how to break the *idea* of writing down into small, manageable chunks that I could easily teach to students.

How do I do that?  Well, here are my NO FAIL TIPS for teaching students how to write clearly, coherently, and logically.

Write DAILY (i.e.:  PRACTICE!!)

Writing is something we do in my classroom DAILY.  There is absolutely no exception to this rule.   Now, we don't write full essays daily, but we do write *something*.  Whether it be a response to literature, a paragraph to go along with our social studies project, or a few sentences to describe the end of our day, we are always writing.

writing daily in class is a MUST to get students to be proficient writers

One of the easiest ways I have found to make sure we are always writing is doing a morning message.   Each day, I write a letter to the students and they write back to me.  In the letter I embed some language skills that they are to identify (i.e.: edit some misspelled words, find the figurative language, combine or delete sentences...the things we are learning in grammar) and then they respond to the prompt within the letter passage.  The response requires them to use the grammar skills AND practice writing correctly.  This is a way for them to practice writing, as writing is all about PRACTICE!

CHUNK the Writing

If you tell the students to simply write, they won't.  Plain and simple.  Students in elementary grades need a more scaffolded approach to writing.  They need to be explicitly taken through the steps, from breaking down the prompts to writing the body to filling in with the topic and closing.

One of the most effective way that I have done this is using Paragraph of the Week.  Each day, the students complete one portion of the paragraph.  Starting with looking at the prompt and then brainstorming ideas to respond to that prompt, then on to the body of the paragraph, and finally the topic/closing sentences to bring it all together, using this scaffolded method has created writers in my classroom.  (you can read a bit more about how exactly I structure it here)  Each year the students leave *knowing* how to write a paragraph.  This then translates to essays, with the exact same structure. Kids don't see writing as a chore, but rather an easy way to express their ideas.  Chunking the writing down has done WONDERS in my class.


Finding prompts that the kids like and *have some background knowledge of* is vitally important to getting kids interested in writing.  If they have no idea what it is that you are asking them about, it is just so difficult for them to write.   I always use the example of my own time when traveling to Chicago in the winter.  Being born and raised in Los Angeles, snow was not something I was accustomed to.  As it began to snow, I broke out an umbrella.  Everyone around me laughed because it was just "flurries" and not actually snow.  I had NEVER heard that word before.  Ever.  And I was in my late 20s!  If I had been asked to write about flurries, I would have failed.

Using high interest writing prompts is a good way to get elementary students in the habit of writing

So giving students lots of prompts that you KNOW they will have some knowledge about is key.  Finding things that the kids are leaning about, or are interested in, will undoubtedly lead to more specific and engaging writing from them.  I do this throughout the genres too.   Using the same topic, that I know they have knowledge about, I give them prompts from each writing style so that they are practicing the different types of writing each week.

Now those are just a FEW of the MANY different ways I get my kids writing.  What about you?  What ideas do you have to add to this list?