Get Them Writing!

I am currently in the middle of reading Kelly Sassi and Anne Ruggles Gere’s Writing on Demand for the Common Core State Standards Assessments (2014, Heinemann). My personal teaching goal this year is to focus on close writing with my students the way that I have focused on close reading. I plan to increase the amount of writing my students do to meet the demands of the Common Core Standards and improve their writing. I have always been told that in order to build better readers and writers, students need to read and write everyday in the classroom.

In Sassi and Gere’s text, three levels of writing are described:

Level 1 = writing is personal, informal, and ungraded

Level 2 = is for an audience, more formal, and graded

Level 3 = writing is public, formal, and high stakes

The authors state, “Writing skills are best developed at Level 1 and Level 2.” For every text my students read, they are writing Level 3 assessments. I am planning on bringing more Level 1 and 2 to engage my students in writing opportunities that engage  students. Below is a compilation of ten different writing opportunities I have compiled over the years that allow students opportunities to write for themselves and for pleasure.

1. Five Truths and One Lie – You probably know this ice breaker activity, students write down five true things about themselves and one lie. Their peers have to decipher the lie. Have students take one of the truths and tell a story.

2. Things that Irritate Me – Make a list of all the things that irritate you. Then choose one and write about it for five minutes, as a free write.

3. Writing Territories – I believe this writing activity comes from Nancie Atwell. Students brainstorm possible seed ideas and share out possible writing ideas. Students can take pieces and extend ideas or even write from a different point of view.

4. Write off One Line – Give your students a sentence starter to free write off of: “One thing about me that would surprise you…”

5. Talk to the Hand – Have students trace their hands and write in the hand interesting stories. Brainstorm all the things your hand has done today.

6. What I Wonder – Based on the book Ever Wonder Why, students generate a list of ten things they wonder about and then find the answer to write about. Students can compiled their own class set of Ever Wonder Why.

7. I am An Expert – Students generate a list of all their expertise and then write about what they know about these topics.

8. Worst Case Scenarios – Students write about a worst case scenario they fear the most.

9. The Most Boring Thing – What would be the most boring thing you can imagine. Write about it.

10. Write the Small Moments – Ralph Fletcher describes this strategy of giving students a visual photo to write about. Students pick a small moment from the photo and write about it. What is happening in the photo? Create the dialogue if there are people in the photo, what do they need to tell?

Students need to know that writing is important. Kelly Gallagher writes in Teaching Adolescent Writers, writing is hard, but hard is rewarding, writing makes you a better reader, and writing prepares you for the world of work.

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