Prospecting For Treasure

Always prospecting for the next treasure of an idea.

Encouraging Kids to Write

The Writing Can rules are: draw a slip of paper out of the can without looking, glue it in your writer's notebook, and write about it.

I have learned so much about using technology in my classroom from others on Twitter, and I am doing many more things with technology than I ever did before.  Even so, the majority of our class time is spent on things that don’t directly involve technology.  I am still “Prospecting for Treasure,” so I would really like to learn more about what others are doing in their classrooms for writing, reading, and math instruction.  In this post, I will share some of the things I do to encourage kids to write, with the hope that you will share some of your secrets.  Then I will promptly steal those gems and use them.

I like to keep kids writing all the time in my classroom.  Sometimes, we do big projects, working through the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising and editing, and finally publishing. But we do lots of little things as well.  Several years ago, my school district embraced a writer’s workshop model, where students were to continually be working on topics of their own choosing, from prewriting to publishing.  When one piece was completed, they were to move to the next piece.  In reality, I found that most kids finished one piece, and then pretty much stalled out.  Most adults have difficulty thinking of things to write about, so I’m not sure why we assume it will come more easily to kids.  Also going through the entire writing process on every piece is overwhelming and frustrating to most 4th graders.  It has worked better for me to have lots of options available for young writers. We do editing and revising on our special projects, but most days we just write.

My school  is a public school, but it is also a traditional school.  We have a dress code, mandatory homework on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays, and great parent support.  I can usually count on 95-100% attendance at parent/teacher conferences.  We also teach a Core Knowledge curriculum, in addition to the regular school district curriculum.  In 4th grade, we study the American Revolution, the Middle Ages, and lots of other exciting topics.  We do several research projects.  In a later post I will talk about how I do research with 4th graders, but today I want to tell you about our monthly writing topics. 

I started thinking about this, because it’s time for me to put the February Writing Calendar together.     The monthly writing topics are a collection of 20+ story starters that students can choose from during the month.  An example is in the file cabinet to the right (assuming I got it to work right.)  I didn’t come up with these topics on my own.  I have collected them from several sources, but most are from the book, 730 Journal Prompts:  Two for Every Day of the Year from The Mailbox.  And just recently I picked up another, Daily Journal Prompts: Two Prompts for Every Day of the Year, also from The Mailbox.  I select those that I think will invite more thought and longer writing pieces, and reword them to remove very date specific references.  When an idea talks about “your school” or “your principal”, I insert names, which seems to catch the kids’ interest.  This month, I also printed off a chart of Mind Movers from Mind Movers & Brain Teasers , which is a Frank Schaffer Publication. My goal is to provide students with lots of ideas to choose from.

 One of the 20 choices on the writing calendar is “Pick your own topic.” and another is “Draw a topic from the writing can.”  Picking a topic from the writing can is very popular in my room.  I’m not sure why.  The writing can is full of more than 100 other story starters.  The rules are:  draw a slip of paper out without looking.  Glue it in your writer’s notebook, and write about it.    Check out the Story Starters File in the “File Cabinet” in the sidebar.  This year we are using notebook paper in a 3 prong pocket folder for our writer’s notebooks, but they are not holding up well.  I prefer using composition notebooks.  Pages don’t fall out like they do in spiral notebooks, and the pages are smaller, which I think is less intimidating for reluctant writers.

Writing and independent reading are the main assignments for seatwork  time.  We take time to share some of what we have written about once a week, either with the whole class or in a small group situation.  Students also self evaluate their writing with a rubric each month.  My original rubric came from Teachnology,  which I adapted to meet my own needs.    A copy of the rubric for February is in the file cabinet.

  So how do you keep your kids writing?  What works best for you?  Please share some of your gems in your comments below.

Books for Journal Prompts

The Journal Prompt books I use for ideas.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Education, Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments