Top 5 Writing Ideas

Suggested and tested by teachers like you, each of these entries in our Winning Ideas Monthly Contest won $50 in Scholastic products.

Writing Buffet
Submitted by: Cate Sanazaro, Crawford Co R-2 School District, MO

Three years ago my teaching assignment was altered from a one-hour reading class to a two-hour block of reading and writing. The first two years were a struggle to keep my middle school students interested and focused on writing. Then last year I found a book that changed my classroom into a writing workshop. The Writing Menu by Melissa Forney has been an inspiration for how I teach all aspects of writing.

I don't follow the format precisely -- the book tends to be more geared toward lower grades -- but the big picture has truly appealed to my students. Each month we, myself and the students, write a "menu" of possible writing topics and assignments. We do this together, which involves the students in the process. The menu offers short writing assignments called "Snacks", longer assignments called "Entrees," and fun/artistic projects called "Desserts." The students are required to choose so many items from each section to complete. There are plenty of choices to appeal to everyone. The book also suggests using contracts for grades, but this is not something I have tried.

Each month we choose a topic or two, and usually we involve the subjects being taught in the other core classrooms. This past month we focused on Ancient Civilizations and Outer Space. The photo I have included is a "dessert" item featuring Medieval Japan Jeopardy questions on a mobile.

The students really enjoy the variety of writing topics, and taking responsibility and ownership of their choices.

Organize for Writing
Submitted by: Lanise Jacoby, Pierce Elementary School, MA

For many, many years I used a simple file folder as a "working" folder to organize the students' work for Writers' Workshop. Sometimes they were plain and the children decorated them, or sometimes they were just a nice bright color. They contained first drafts, word books, and various sheets of writing tips and tools. The problem, however, was that they were always a mess!

This past summer I decided to make a change, and it has worked out GREAT! This year each child has a three prong, two pocket Writers' Workshop folder. Here's how it's organized:

1. Front pocket always has the working draft of the piece on which they're working.
2. Back pocket has their "Word Books."
3. The folder is filled with clear pocket sleeves in which there are lists of:

  • traits of good writing
  • words for feelings
  • words to describe people
  • "sparkle words" (adjectives)
  • powerful verbs, etc.

Pages can be added or taken out VERY easily, and writing tools and tips are neat, organized, and always at the children's fingertips! This is an easy way to organize and both the children and I love it -- I know you will, too!

Picture Prompts
Submitted by: Nichole Warnock, WesternRow Elementary School, OH

I have found that cameras can be a great tool to promote creativity in writing. Not only do students get to practice using technology, and learn how to download, crop and print pictures, but they are so excited to write! First we begin by either sending home a disposable camera with the students, or taking a "picture walk" with the school-provided digital cameras. I decide on a genre of writing (ex: personal narrative, nonfiction, fiction etc...) and create a few procedures for the kids to follow.

For example, for a non-fiction piece, I might tell them to take pictures of their favorite spots around town. When they bring the photos back, we lay them out in storyboard to give them a physical layout of the story they are about to write. The students can then use their own personal pictures to facilitate their writing piece. For the final draft, we laminate and bind booklets together and place them in our class library for the whole class to enjoy.

Preschool Group Stories
Submitted by: Lisa Talcott, Right Start Preschool, IN

As a preschool teacher, I work with a group of children who range in age from 3 to 5 years old. We write stories together by beginning with a topic related to the letter we are currently studying. For example, during "k" week, we wrote a story about a kite. I begin the story with a sentence that introduces our main character, then prompt the children with questions (e.g. "What happens next?" "What if...?" etc.) that trigger responses that move our story along. As they dictate their portion, I record the story on our chalkboard. The children come up with imaginative and many times, very funny sentences. These are some of our most memorable and effective class activities. They learn a lot about stories and don't even realize it. And they are so proud of the finished product! We always have to publish it so that it can be shared with friends and family.

Photo Motivation
Submitted by: Amanda Wadsworth, Miller Intermediate School, TX

As a special education teacher, it is very difficult for me to get my students to enjoy the concept of writing. One thing that works very well for my students is for them to cut pictures that they find interesting out of magazines and glue them onto construction paper. This way, I have 10-20 pictures to use. Each day, I pull out one of the students' pictures and have each student write a story that goes along with the picture. They really enjoy sharing their imagination with the class. Currently, I am only checking their writing for proper capitalization and punctuation but as my students progress, I can use other methods for critique. This writing project is wonderful for special education students but I think it could be beneficial for general education as well.

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