We reserve time each day for story writing.
There are so many ways to encourage students to write, even when they are just at the emergent level.
The most important thing, I feel, is that students feel confident in their ability to express themselves through writing, and that they have the opportunity to share those ideas with others.
Where To Get Ideas
When given time to write, some students have no strategies for finding a topic. We talk often about different forms of writing and how to start each kind.
Some students are more drawn to certain forms, so I like to offer the choice and model, unless we are studying one specific kind. We talk about how to :
- Write about a familiar story: give a summary, make a new ending, write a letter to someone
- Describe a personal event: write about something you’ve experienced
- Imagine a story: use writing prompts to create a story about a character
The Blank Page
A blank page can be quite intimidating for both students and adults!
One of the most important life skill we can offer students is the freedom to start writing ideas down without worrying about spelling or perfection.
In our class, we practice the following to understand the writing process:
- Brainstorm ideas, draw pictures, or make diagrams before writing.
- If you don’t know how to spell a word, check the word wall, or just guess and move on!
- Editing and elaborating on ideas can come later.
For students who feel comfortable, sharing our writing is an important part of the puzzle. This is the very purpose of writing: communicating ideas! Students love to read their own stories, or have the teacher read them aloud, and see the response their writing can elicit from peers. So many times over the years I’ve seen students watch the audience have a great reaction to their writing. Those same students rush back to write more – they have discovered the joy of communicating this way! Even reluctant speakers can eventually feel comfortable sharing, even if they don’t do the reading aloud themselves.
Each year we work together to make a class book.
We use money from our bake sale to have it professionally published. It’s very simple, and I would highly recommend it! I’ve never seen anything motivate students to be writers more than seeing their own work in a printed format.
There’s even more positive reinforcement when they each get a copy to bring home and share with family members. Here are some pictures of the books we made last year – the day the box of books arrives in the mail is a day to remember!
Story Writing Templates
Another idea I’ve had for successful story writing and writers’ workshop is to use writing templates.
These are simply laminated pages with starter sentences in place, with room for students to add supporting detail. This is excellent for teaching about writing detailed sentences vs. simple, boring sentences.
The templates I use are completely differentiated. This means that the same template format is used for all students, but each student does different things with it!
Differentiation is discreet; my expectations are different for each student.
Here’s an example of the templates I use:
LEVEL 1. Trace or draw the picture onto their own paper (differentiated writing pages provided) Students who don’t know letter sounds yet can simply write freely with an adult to scribe if desired.
LEVEL 2. After level 1, also label the picture with words in the word bank
LEVEL 3. After level 2, stretch each simple sentence by adding descriptive words in the spaces provided
LEVEL 4. The first three sentences together will create the beginning of a story. Sentence 4 introduces conflict to the story. Sentence 5 prompts students to resolve the conflict and end the story.
LEVEL 5. Self editing prompts are at the bottom of the page. Students identify their use of basic capitalization and punctuation.
LEVEL 6. There is also a prompt for students to read their story aloud to a peer, and ask the peer for feedback regarding their favorite part of the story, or peer editing.
Independent Level Choice
Depending on student ability, the stories can be as long and complex as needed.
Emergent writers my only do the tracing and labeling in levels 1 and 2.
Students farther along may write a simple story by filling in the blanks.
More advanced students can incorporate vocabulary, self-editing, peer editing, writers workshop, etc.
Students using this set are often surprised by how much they can write. This, in turn, gives them the confidence to continue writing!
Would you like to try these templates in your classroom?
Download some free templates and writing pages by clicking HERE and downloading the samples in the PREVIEW for the larger set of 50 different animals. I hope your little writers enjoy them!