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September 5, 2018

Best Teacher-Tested Writing Strategies From the Trenches

By The Scholastic.com Editors
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Kids need to develop writing skills beyond ROFL and IMHO. It is required in their academic careers, but also essential in most professions. You might not necessarily be responsible for developing the next J. K. Rowling or Kwame Alexander (although . . . ), but every student should learn what it takes to write persuasively, passionately, and purposefully.

    Here are some of our favorite tricks from the trenches to teach writing techniques for every child no matter their grade level or innate talents.

    To read the full blog post, just click on the title.

    "Practical Incentives for Early Writers," Elaine Winter, Preschool Director

    Through modeling and documentation, teachers can illustrate some of the ways that writing is a very useful tool. In our preschool, the teachers for the 4-year-olds introduce journal writing. While we refer to it as writing, most children are actually dictating responses that teachers record for them. Each child then illustrates her page, recording through pictures. As the process moves forward, and children grow more sophisticated in their letter/sound understandings, they begin to contribute letters and even words to their journals. This is a one-on-one process that requires a teacher’s close involvement. Here are a few journal responses to a teacher’s question, “What makes you happy?”

    One thing that makes me happy is building machines in the block area and then cleaning it up.

    I love my daddy so much that he makes my heart feel better.

    Drawing pictures is one thing that makes me happy.

     

    "How to Inspire Your Kids to Write and Why You Should," Shari Carter, Kindergarten Teacher

    If you need a great book to help you teach writing in kindergarten, this it the one! Randee Bergen's Teaching Writing in Kindergarten gives teachers a structured approach to daily writing that will help your students become confident and capable writers.

    I love watching my kids help each other find words on the Word Wall that they are trying spell; they love to help each other as they write. Seeing the words on the word wall makes them become excited about words and understand that words can be used over and over again.

     

    "Celebrate Writing and Young Authors!," Nancy Jang, First Grade Teacher

    Every day in my classroom students spend time writing, either by themselves or with partners. Some students illustrate books while others peer edit or meet with me. Every week, we have Writers Workshop, and when a student has finished a story and the illustrations are complete, they present it at Author's Chair. I am pleased to share with you a fun Author's Chair video featuring several of my students. Enjoy!

     

    "Celebrate Budding Authors: The Writing Feast," Juan Gonzalez, Third Grade Teacher

    During the fall, I host a gathering called The Writing Feast, a celebration that brings all of the third-grade writers together to “feast” on each other's work. I reach out to friends and colleagues and ask to borrow charger plates, fall table covers, and fall/harvest decorations. You'll also need: the student writing pieces, compliment sheet, clipboards, and snacks (optional).

    The tables are set to look like a dinner table. Each student gets their own placement with cups of trail mix at each table setting. The students simply pick up a cup and travel with it as they read. There are no chairs at the tables because the students will move around frequently during the celebration.

    The charger plate is used to display a piece of writing and a compliment sheet for each author. Students rotate around the tables, reading the writing pieces and using the compliment sheet to leave their supportive remarks.

     

    "Writing to Teach," Julie Ballew, Fifth Grade Teacher

    One day a few weeks ago, I was watching with wonder the high levels of engagement as my students read self-selected nonfiction texts. Over the next few days, I took note of which books were passed around most frequently, and I gathered those books into a stack of potential mentor texts. I then told my students that instead of writing traditional research papers, we would be using all of our research to create high-interest nonfiction books. I challenged them to figure out how to teach their readers and have them begging for more. I explained to them that I’d noticed how they huddled around books like the Ripley’s Believe It or Not series and this book about Hurricane Katrina. We quickly realized that while content was important, interest was often driven by the unique formatting or text features in the book. This led to a discussion of how writers of nonfiction make decisions to engage their readers. My students became aware that they currently had lists of facts, and they had to figure out a way to share them in an interesting way. These texts became great mentors for that work.

     

    "Writing Journals: Exploring Mood," Mary Blow, Sixth Grade Teacher

    I explained to my students that the feeling a reader experiences is called mood; that the setting serves many purposes in the development of plot, but for now, we would focus on setting and how it contributes to the development of mood. Their assignment was to use sensory details to describe the same setting that depicts two different moods. I mentioned that there are other ways to create mood, but for now we are focusing on the use of sensory language.

    Before putting pen to paper, we went on a 15-minute field trip on a chilly fall day to use our senses to observe our setting and select a unique detail that others may not notice. Periodically we stopped so they could close their eyes and listen to the sounds of fall. We touched trees. Smelled leaves. Watched our shadows stalking us. They learned to look, touch, taste, hear, and smell autumn.

    We returned to school eager to write. While students wrote two descriptions of the same setting, I played instrumental music. Music reflects a mood, so it helps those students who are musically inclined to be more creative. At the end of class, we spent 10 minutes sharing our journal entries. Their writing was engaging and original, not cliché. Students cheered each other on. Motivation skyrocketed.

     

    "Creative Writing Celebrations: A Writing Fair," Meghan Everette, Kindergarten–Sixth Grade Teacher

    Students write every day, but how often do they show off their work? Our annual writing fair is a chance for students to exhibit their published works through a meaningful theme. Students learn just as much from the finished writing fair as they do while they help create their displays. Each spring our hallways burst with writing, which literally covers every inch of the wall and even hangs from the ceiling. It is a fun and engaging way to show student work and unite the school with a common purpose. Here are ten steps to creating your own celebration of writing.

    1. Plan — Pick your theme the summer before.
    2. Start Writing — Be open to include anything: stories, nonfiction paragraphs, research reports, and more.
    3. Get Attached — Having tried several different methods, we like to “roll” the hallways with butcher paper.
    4. Divide and Conquer —  Have one person in charge, but divide the workload.
    5. Get Out Your Pocketbook — You can have a fair without spending a lot, but a few purchases will make your life easier.
    6. Come Alive — A writing fair doesn’t have to be all writing. Our fifth graders take on the role of wax characters.
    7. Annie Get Your Glue Gun — The paper is hung, and the writing is ready. Somehow it has to get attached to the wall!
    8. Pump Up the Volume — Another addition to our fair is music and video.
    9. Hear Ye! Hear Ye — Invite families, write to the local news, invite the anchors, and send personal invites to officials.
    10. Celebrate! — When the day arrives, enjoy! Students burst with pride over a writing fair that they created and that shows off all of their hard work.

    For pure incentive and the thrill of going for the gold, don't forget the "Scholastic Art & Writing Awards." And if you are still looking for creative ways to get the creative juices flowing, try this round-up of even more blog posts at "Best of Blogs: Writing Strategies."

    Kids need to develop writing skills beyond ROFL and IMHO. It is required in their academic careers, but also essential in most professions. You might not necessarily be responsible for developing the next J. K. Rowling or Kwame Alexander (although . . . ), but every student should learn what it takes to write persuasively, passionately, and purposefully.

    Here are some of our favorite tricks from the trenches to teach writing techniques for every child no matter their grade level or innate talents.

    To read the full blog post, just click on the title.

    "Practical Incentives for Early Writers," Elaine Winter, Preschool Director

    Through modeling and documentation, teachers can illustrate some of the ways that writing is a very useful tool. In our preschool, the teachers for the 4-year-olds introduce journal writing. While we refer to it as writing, most children are actually dictating responses that teachers record for them. Each child then illustrates her page, recording through pictures. As the process moves forward, and children grow more sophisticated in their letter/sound understandings, they begin to contribute letters and even words to their journals. This is a one-on-one process that requires a teacher’s close involvement. Here are a few journal responses to a teacher’s question, “What makes you happy?”

    One thing that makes me happy is building machines in the block area and then cleaning it up.

    I love my daddy so much that he makes my heart feel better.

    Drawing pictures is one thing that makes me happy.

     

    "How to Inspire Your Kids to Write and Why You Should," Shari Carter, Kindergarten Teacher

    If you need a great book to help you teach writing in kindergarten, this it the one! Randee Bergen's Teaching Writing in Kindergarten gives teachers a structured approach to daily writing that will help your students become confident and capable writers.

    I love watching my kids help each other find words on the Word Wall that they are trying spell; they love to help each other as they write. Seeing the words on the word wall makes them become excited about words and understand that words can be used over and over again.

     

    "Celebrate Writing and Young Authors!," Nancy Jang, First Grade Teacher

    Every day in my classroom students spend time writing, either by themselves or with partners. Some students illustrate books while others peer edit or meet with me. Every week, we have Writers Workshop, and when a student has finished a story and the illustrations are complete, they present it at Author's Chair. I am pleased to share with you a fun Author's Chair video featuring several of my students. Enjoy!

     

    "Celebrate Budding Authors: The Writing Feast," Juan Gonzalez, Third Grade Teacher

    During the fall, I host a gathering called The Writing Feast, a celebration that brings all of the third-grade writers together to “feast” on each other's work. I reach out to friends and colleagues and ask to borrow charger plates, fall table covers, and fall/harvest decorations. You'll also need: the student writing pieces, compliment sheet, clipboards, and snacks (optional).

    The tables are set to look like a dinner table. Each student gets their own placement with cups of trail mix at each table setting. The students simply pick up a cup and travel with it as they read. There are no chairs at the tables because the students will move around frequently during the celebration.

    The charger plate is used to display a piece of writing and a compliment sheet for each author. Students rotate around the tables, reading the writing pieces and using the compliment sheet to leave their supportive remarks.

     

    "Writing to Teach," Julie Ballew, Fifth Grade Teacher

    One day a few weeks ago, I was watching with wonder the high levels of engagement as my students read self-selected nonfiction texts. Over the next few days, I took note of which books were passed around most frequently, and I gathered those books into a stack of potential mentor texts. I then told my students that instead of writing traditional research papers, we would be using all of our research to create high-interest nonfiction books. I challenged them to figure out how to teach their readers and have them begging for more. I explained to them that I’d noticed how they huddled around books like the Ripley’s Believe It or Not series and this book about Hurricane Katrina. We quickly realized that while content was important, interest was often driven by the unique formatting or text features in the book. This led to a discussion of how writers of nonfiction make decisions to engage their readers. My students became aware that they currently had lists of facts, and they had to figure out a way to share them in an interesting way. These texts became great mentors for that work.

     

    "Writing Journals: Exploring Mood," Mary Blow, Sixth Grade Teacher

    I explained to my students that the feeling a reader experiences is called mood; that the setting serves many purposes in the development of plot, but for now, we would focus on setting and how it contributes to the development of mood. Their assignment was to use sensory details to describe the same setting that depicts two different moods. I mentioned that there are other ways to create mood, but for now we are focusing on the use of sensory language.

    Before putting pen to paper, we went on a 15-minute field trip on a chilly fall day to use our senses to observe our setting and select a unique detail that others may not notice. Periodically we stopped so they could close their eyes and listen to the sounds of fall. We touched trees. Smelled leaves. Watched our shadows stalking us. They learned to look, touch, taste, hear, and smell autumn.

    We returned to school eager to write. While students wrote two descriptions of the same setting, I played instrumental music. Music reflects a mood, so it helps those students who are musically inclined to be more creative. At the end of class, we spent 10 minutes sharing our journal entries. Their writing was engaging and original, not cliché. Students cheered each other on. Motivation skyrocketed.

     

    "Creative Writing Celebrations: A Writing Fair," Meghan Everette, Kindergarten–Sixth Grade Teacher

    Students write every day, but how often do they show off their work? Our annual writing fair is a chance for students to exhibit their published works through a meaningful theme. Students learn just as much from the finished writing fair as they do while they help create their displays. Each spring our hallways burst with writing, which literally covers every inch of the wall and even hangs from the ceiling. It is a fun and engaging way to show student work and unite the school with a common purpose. Here are ten steps to creating your own celebration of writing.

    1. Plan — Pick your theme the summer before.
    2. Start Writing — Be open to include anything: stories, nonfiction paragraphs, research reports, and more.
    3. Get Attached — Having tried several different methods, we like to “roll” the hallways with butcher paper.
    4. Divide and Conquer —  Have one person in charge, but divide the workload.
    5. Get Out Your Pocketbook — You can have a fair without spending a lot, but a few purchases will make your life easier.
    6. Come Alive — A writing fair doesn’t have to be all writing. Our fifth graders take on the role of wax characters.
    7. Annie Get Your Glue Gun — The paper is hung, and the writing is ready. Somehow it has to get attached to the wall!
    8. Pump Up the Volume — Another addition to our fair is music and video.
    9. Hear Ye! Hear Ye — Invite families, write to the local news, invite the anchors, and send personal invites to officials.
    10. Celebrate! — When the day arrives, enjoy! Students burst with pride over a writing fair that they created and that shows off all of their hard work.

    For pure incentive and the thrill of going for the gold, don't forget the "Scholastic Art & Writing Awards." And if you are still looking for creative ways to get the creative juices flowing, try this round-up of even more blog posts at "Best of Blogs: Writing Strategies."

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