Friday, July 10, 2020

Writing Week 2020 - Ideas for Writing in Centers and Daily Five

Welcome to Day 5!  I hope this week has helped you feel more prepared to teach your young authors!

Today is all about writing choices while you instruct small groups.  THIS IS NOT WRITER'S WORKSHOP TIME.

I use Daily Five as my model for "what the other students are doing" but I have also had schoolyschool when I used a centers or stations approach to independent writing.  Regardless of which you prefer, these ideas will help your authors practice writing independently during your small group literacy instruction time.

A lot of these ideas are self explanatory, but I did want to show you some of my littles' creations from kindergarten.  If Kinder kids can do these, then first and second graders definitely can!

SIDE NOTE: Since kindergarteners are still learning how to print letters, it's OKAY to have letter printing activities in your Working on Writing choices.  This is a scaffolded skill.  The joy in independent writing time is that there are many choices, so your higher learners can have writing choices while your emergent writers can work on letter printing.  YOU KNOW YOUR KIDS BEST!

Here is an example of one my cutie's pop up books that she created independently during Daily Five when we were learning about zoo and African animals.

Now this cutie' didn't just know how to make a pop up book.  I added pop up paper to our choices in the second semester after we had created a few pop up books as a class during the first semester.  Any new idea needs really good teaching before it can become and independent choice.

Here is my FREE pop up paper and a video I made to show you how to make pop up books with your kiddos.

Another simple and preferred writing choice is writing about exciting news.  We all know young children can talk for HOURS about themselves and grandma visiting and their dog digging a hole and what they had for dinner... You get the point!  I often stop the stories by saying "That sounds really fun! Can you tell me all about it by writing to me?"  So, I created this little gem for sharing news!  Click HERE to get it for FREE!

That reminds me, if a atudent wrote a letter for me, I have them place it in my mailbox.  Do you see it on the shelf to the left?  I would encourage you to get a mailbox to collect ALL of the treasures your kiddos write you!

Another writing choice my kiddos love is creating 3D stories.  Here are two examples.

Again, this has to be taught.  I showed my littles how to create characters that stood up by making a foldable tab on the bottom of their characters and about adding details in a setting, as well as how to attach the written portion of their story.

One of our most favorite writing choices are our shared journals.  I don't have a picture of them from my classroom, but I bought them from my friend Lori.  They're just journals in which you add a topic label to the front like "My Teacher" or "Pets" and anyone from the classroom can write in the journal about that topic.

I hope this gives you some ideas about what you can add to your independent writing choices!  Just a few tips...

1.  Remember it is a choice so it's alright if a student chooses the same writing choice each day at check-in.  After all, it will take a child days to create a pop-up book, so she may choose to work on it each when he/she picks a writing choice.  Just celebrate writing anything independently!

2.  Make sure you have a system for supplies.  Where are your students' pencils, crayons, etc. that are needed for writing choices?  Do they each have a supply box you want them to use?  Are there shared supplies stored in the writing area?

3.  What is your system for turning in the finished product?  Do they place it in a turn in basket?

4.  What if a child isn't finished?  Since writing takes time to complete, I have my students place stories they aren't finished with in their "Ketchup Folder" to complete the next time they choose Work on Writing at Daily Five.

THANK YOU for joining me on this writing journey this week!  I really hope you have many takeaways on how you can help your students love writing!  Please email me at if you have any questions.  I am always happy to help!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Writing Week 2020 - Grading

Well it's not the most exciting topic, but it's an important one to talk about.... duhn, duhn, duhn - GRADING!

Grading all the awesome writing your students complete can be SO overwhelming!  I hope today's writing topic can help you feel a little better about grading personal narratives.

Grading for me has always been most beneficial when students are a part of the process.  I use data charts with my students so they can track their own knowledge on all kinds of subjects of learning in our classroom.  It helps them set their own goals as learners and to see what they need to improve upon.

There are many different ways to have students assess themselves as writers and rubrics are one of the easiest ways for them to self assess their writing.

Here are some of my kid friendly rubrics for you to use with personal narratives.

Using a personal rubric allows students to see immediately what they need to add and edit to their writing before they can publish it.

This self-reflection also helps students know what goals they can set to help them grow in their writing.  There are a lot of ways to set up a goals chart for writing.  If you do a search online you'll find so many different kinds that can meet your needs.  I personally love using post it notes for students to add their names to and move as needed.  Just remember that your goals for writing will change throughout the school year.  At the beginning of K you may want "Spaces Between Words" as a goal, but by the end of the year that might not be goal that you need to keep as an option for your students.

We also need to assess student writing, so I created these teacher rubrics for easy grading with personal narratives.  Click on the image to grab them.

If you want to create your own, click here for an editable version.

Another great tip for grading writing is to have other important people in your students' lives grade for you.  I have had it timed out that parent conferences have occurred around the time I plan to grade writing.  It is really helpful for parents to sit with you and get their feedback about the writing growth and the writing needs of their child.

You can also have a buddy class help grade and talk through the rubric with the student from your class the buddy student is assigned to.  Older elementary students LOVE to help the younger ones and this is a perfect activity to complete together.

Also, having students read their own writing out loud to their writing partner is an excellent method of self-assessment.  I often say, "You're the author of your own story.  If you can't read it, then other people can't read it."  This is important for students to make sure their writing is neat, but also that words aren't left out or that invented spelling is readable to the author. I often have students start the Writing and Conferences portion of Writer's Workshop by reading their story first to their writing partner(s). I even model, model, model why this is important during mini lessons.

Tomorrow is all about independent writing choices in centers/Daily 5!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Writing Week 2020 - Strategies for Improving Writing

Welcome to day 3 of Writing Week 2020!  I hope you're enjoying a peek into how I teach writing in the primary grades.  Today is all about strategies for improving writing with emergent writers.  One of the amazing parts of writer's workshop is that it's naturally differentiated, but that's also one of the scariest parts of writers workshop.  Having an equipped and full toolbelt of strategies for helping your young authors is necessary for their individual needs.  I wear my toolbelt during writer's workshop Writing and Conferences time as I travel around the classroom.  

I keep many tools inside of it to help my writers as I see what each one needs to become a stronger writer.

Let's take a look at some tools (and toys) I use to help stretch all the writers in my classroom.

Play-Doh is a perfect tool to use when introducing how to start a new story.  Have students open their Play-Doh and observe what they see.  You will get answers describing one color, a "blob shape", or my favorite - "It looks like Play-Doh."  Then show a blank piece of paper and tell students that writing a story is just like playing with Play-Doh.  It starts out as just a white, rectangular shaped piece of paper, but when we add our thinking and creativity to it we can turn it into something.  Then allow students to turn their Play-Doh into something.  I like to have my students use Seesaw to take a photo of their Play-Doh creation and record what they made as a reference later in writers workshop for each student to reflect and remember authors start with nothing and turn it into something, just like we did with the Play-Doh.  This is a great tool to use to help timid writers just start writing.  Always remember that in kindergarten and first grade, writing can start with pictures. If you have an apprehensive writer in the beginning, let them start with pictures, then move into labeling, then words. (Click the photo to grab my 3 Ways to Write FREEBIE.)

Isn't it awesome that writing is naturally differentiated?!?!

I also love these two books for mentor texts with helping apprehensive writers.

A Ball for Daisy is a wordless book, yet it tells a story about Daisy and her ball.  It shows young writers that our pictures hold meaning, so starting with pictures is okay.

The Dot is a great book about making a mark that can turn into so many creative things, just like we do in writing.  We just have to start!

One tool that I use as a visual model for my authors is this stacking toy.  It helps writers see that they need to make sure their story is told in the correct order to help it make sense.  I know that seems so simple for us, but for emergent writers they really do need to understand beginning, middle, and end.  This is a skill we are working on during reading ALL THE TIME, but making it translate into writing can be hard at times.  Using this visual helps tremendously.  For writers who are already skilled at making their story flow, this tool can be used during revising in the writing process.  Sometimes we need to rearrange parts of our stories to help them make more sense to our readers.  During revising you can see my class literally cutting their stories apart and rearranging them to make them clearer, just like with this toy, we can rearrange it to make it "right".

Mr. Potato Head is a wonderful visual for showing why details are important in writing.  Start with the body of Mr. Potato Head and ask students what it is.  They will probably know it's a Mr. Potato Head.  Ask students to describe Mr. Potato Head and they won't have much to say apart from brown and oval shaped.  Start adding pieces one by one, having students describe what they see.  As you add each part, Mr. Potato Head becomes more interesting.  These pieces are like the details we add in our writing.  Details help make stories more interesting and fun to read.  Here's an anchor chart I made to help my students remember all the details writers can add to make their stories better.

I keep Mr. Potato Head near writing area to remind my students to add those details during writing and, of course, I wear my costume on the day I introduce him.

Thank you, Target, for your fun costumes!

Let's Go Fishing is a fun toy to use to help students understand adding hooks into their writing.  Hooks are great details that engage a reader immediately.  I have enough sets of these for students to play in groups of 4.  After playing for about ten minutes, we regroup for writers workshop and I ask students how they caught the fish.  They know they used a fishing pole.  Then we talk about how fishing poles have a hook to catch a fish.  You can't catch a fish without one.  I then explain that authors use hooks, too, to catch their reader's attention.  Some hooks we can use in writing are asking questions or starting with an exclamation.

Legos or Unifix cubes can be used to help writers visually see the we need a beginning (green), a long, detailed middle (several yellow blocks depending on the level of your writer), and an ending (red).  Helping young authors see that most of the story is included in the middle is important for remembering to add details and stretch it out.  We call this elaborating.  I also use this song to the tune of "Tell Me More" from Grease:

Tell me more, tell me more
I don't think I can wait.
Tell me more, tell me more
Will you elaborate?
Uh-huh, uh-huh,
Let's elaborate
Uh-huh, uh-huh,
Let's elaborate

Many of these ideas can be added to your student's Writer's Tool Boxes in miniature form.  I found many mini versions on Amazon, but just having visual cards helps too.  Click the image below to grab the cards.  You can keep them in your toolbox or put them on a ring and add them to student's boxes.

What else is in my toolbelt?  Let's take a look!

This 7 minute video explains everything I carry around with me for writing conferences.

I hope these strategies help make writing more fun and engaging for your students and YOU!

Also, this book is amazing for strategies for all ages.

Tomorrow is all about grading writing!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Writing Week 2020 - Publishing Party!!

Publishing parties are one of my favorite days in the school year.  They are a true celebration of all of the hard work your young authors put into their writing.

I created this freebie for you to celebrate your writers' hard work.  Click the image to grab it and to learn more about publishing parties:

Here's a little bit of what's included in this FREEBIE:

I hope your authors and YOU enjoy publishing parties in the future!

Tomorrow is all about strategies for improving writing!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Writing Week 2020 - How to Get Started with Writer's Workshop in K-2

Welcome to Writing Week 2020!  This week is all about helping you learn some tips and tricks about writing so you can help your students.  Just a few things about this week...

1.  I love sharing what I have learned throughout my 16 years in primary grades, but I am always learning, too.  I don't have all the answers but I do have a passion to find the answers and always make each year of teaching better than the year before.

2.  Each day's topic will be shared here on my blog whether you're following on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.  I will post each day's link for you to access with one easy click.

3.  Give yourself grace while you learn.  You don't need to download everything immediately or get overwhelmed.  Everything is accessible forever - from the posts to the freebies.  Take a break and come back next week, or month, or year if you feel like it's too much to take in right now.

4.  Email me with any questions, anytime:

With that being said...

Here's day 1!!!!!  Yay Writing!!!

Today is all about getting started with Writer's Workshop in your primary classroom and there's a LOT to share so it's in 2 parts.  Click below to watch each of the parts:

Part One

Part Two

Access all of the FREEBIES by clicking the pencil below and check this freebies link often as I'll be adding more to it throughout the school year:

Tomorrow is all about Publishing Parties!!


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