The reading-writing connection is significant in a student’s literacy development. For many students, writing is a REAL struggle. Kids have difficulty with generating ideas or work at a slower pace. Some may be unwilling to attempt when their work is not “right”, or may have real struggles with connecting oral words to print (spelling). Because of these barriers, we KNOW that consistent instruction and practice is critical. In this post, we’ll discuss suggestions of classroom routines that will help you and your students develop a love of writing.
Keep Balance in Your Writing Program
To begin, it’s important to understand that writing can and should be infused throughout the curriculum. However, simply including it in all subject areas isn’t enough either. Consider this diagram. If you think about your total day, you can probably “check the box” on informal writing easily with journaling, graphic organizers, exit tickets, and reading response activities. However, it’s also important to use varied assignments (genres) in order to teach structures AND use process writing to finely tune skills.
Organize Writer’s Notebooks
Through my training and experience, I’ve learned that kids should always have a piece they are taking through the writing process. However, not everything kids write needs to be published. Samples should be kept of journal entries, quick writes, brainstorm lists, and drafts. These can be used for process writing at a later time or when a student finishes work early. Plus, your writer’s notebooks are perfect portfolios to demonstrate progress at conference time and for the student to see how they’ve improved. It’s important for kids to see where they’ve come from and know they’re improving. This notebook organizer freebie should be helpful to you.
Build a Community of Writers (and Readers)
Another important component of a strong writing program is a writer’s community. What does a community of writers look like? First, I think environment matters. The classroom needs to surround the students with their own work showcased in a way that makes every student feel proud. Teachers might have an author’s chair for sharing where students talk about what they’re creating and where they can receive feedback from their peers. This is also the place where the teacher can share their work.
Kids should see teachers write too. As you work on writing, be sure you connect your instruction to other literacy domains…spelling, speaking, listening, and reading. Reference great literature as examples and allow kids to spotlight interesting vocabulary they read and might use. Finally, materials should be clearly available to the kids. (even your highlighters and flair pens). Well, maybe you can have flair pens designated for students and flair pens for yourself.
Make Time for Writing
In a busy schedule, sometimes it is hard to make time for untested content, but what we fail to recognize by doing this is that we can USE pieces to learn content at a deeper level. Consider instead working content into your process writing choices. Research topics that tie into your content areas (FREEBIE) or write RAFT papers (FREEBIE)that highlight science and social studies concepts.
Writing takes time, but it’s the student-student and student-teacher conversations (FREEBIE) that move our students along in their skills. If you struggle to get that one-on-one time, enlist parent volunteers to help and use technology to help your students with revisions. When trying to figure out your schedule, you might consider starting your block with a mini lesson based upon a genre you are studying in guided reading. This helps students connect the structure and text elements. I use shared pieces to model as well as student examples to highlight elements from the mentor text. (read aloud) The key is to keep mini lessons short so that most of the time is spent composing and revising.
Take Advantage of Technology
I have found Google apps SO HELPFUL in my writing instruction. Google Drive and Google Classroom greatly helped my students and I with revisions and the exchange of papers. My students struggle with spelling, and having access to spell check (although not 100% dependable) does help them with at least narrowing the spelling options. For those who are hindered with fine motor skills, keyboarding is a great help too.
With my lessons, I use the six traits. For wonderful lessons focused on them, you should visit this site. The Writing Fix is a website sponsored by the Northern Nevada Writing Project. It features carefully chosen mentor texts, related assignments and all of the materials. If you’d like to learn more about it, you can read my this post.