Through drawings, marks, scribbles, letters, and words, children make the process of writing their own. Through open-ended experimentation, they gain insights into the feeling and form of writing and the many ways they can convey a thought or emotion. Your writing center is the place where children can comfortably try on writers' hats, take risks, and grow.

Setting Up

A writing center provides the raw materials for children to experiment with and use in a variety of ways. So, just like your art center, you'll need to have many different implements to write with and many different materials to write on. (See "Try These," below for suggestions.)

If possible, locate your writing center in a quiet place near the library area. Make sure there is plenty of unobstructed surface space for children to work on. To keep work areas clear; use stackable bins or trays to store paper choices, and put writing implements in labeled containers. For those children who are ready to move into writing and spelling words, provide resources such as a set of picture-word cards (index cards that show the written word and a corresponding picture). Invite children to suggest basic words they would like to have in the set and print the words on individual cards.

Celebrate Authors and Illustrators

Help children choose a favorite author or illustrator to spotlight in the writing center. For instance, during a project on paper, one group found the work of Denise Fleming (author of In the Tall, Tall Grass, Henry Holt, 1991, and In the Small, Small Pond, Henry Holt,1993) fascinating because she used handmade paper to illustrate her books.

Collect the News

A classroom newspaper is a great way to get children involved in the writing center. Start by creating news headlines at group time. Ask children to share important events they know about. As a group, choose headlines for the day and record them on a large sheet of experience-chart paper to hang in the writing center.

Around Your Room

It's so important for children to see adults use writing in their daily lives-list making, letter writing, message taking, sign making, and so on. It's just as important to help children experiment with these different forms of writing throughout your room.

  • Attendance: Put out a large sheet of paper with a list of each child's name next to her photograph. Leave space for children to sign their names (in whatever way they can) as they come in each day.
  • Block Area: Provide clipboards with paper, markers, and pencils so children can write "building inspection reports," create "blueprints," and make building signs.
  • Dramatic Play: Place sticky-note paper and pads of paper in this area so children can take phone messages, post refrigerator notes, make grocery lists, and so on.
  • Math/Science: Keep a collection of paper (plain, widelined, graph) along with markers so children can record findings such as classifying, graphing, and predicting.