I love writing. Teaching writing is a different story. But, I am slowly evolving from a wanting-to-control-everything writing teacher to a let-them-write-and-guide-them teacher. Letting them write is the key. And I struggle with keeping my mini-lessons mini. I talk way too much. It’s something I am working on.
So let’s cut to the chase. How do you start your writing lessons at the beginning of the year? Sticking with my goal, a little guidance, and a lot of gradual release of control.
Lesson #1: We are authors. Authors generate ideas.
One of the biggest hurdles in teaching writing is generating ideas. Providing the tools and strategies for supporting your students in developing a slew of ideas for writing will be the first step in building a strong writing block. Great authors write what they have experienced, are passionate about, or just what they feel like getting down on paper that day. So let your students do that too….and as much as possible.
I teach this lesson after about a week of school so by this time we have read a bunch of books. I pull a few books (4-5) to review and we discuss 1. How did the author come up with the idea to write this? 2. How can we be inspired by this book?
This helps students generate some ideas so no one says “I don’t know what to write about.” But, they absolutely do not need to use one of the ideas we discuss. Again, they can write about anything they want. Then I send them off to write for as long as they can. I bounce around the room and check in with each student. I simply ask “What are you writing about?” or “What do you plan to write about?”
I end the session when a few kids start to say “I’m done” or get restless. We haven’t really talked about what to do when they are “done” so, I let that slide for today. We share as a whole group today.
Lesson #2: You are never done writing. Ever.
Here’s where we talk about what we can do when we think we are done: read it to yourself to make sure it sounds right, add more details, add more to the picture, and start a new story. It is great to make this into an anchor chart or a mini reference poster they can glue right into their journals or keep in their writing folders. I model adding more details. And send them off in writing. We share in small groups today.
You can download the pieces for this anchor chart for free here.
Lesson #3: How do I spell (insert any word)? & adding a word
For this next lesson, I use my time to model writing a very short story. I make sure to dramatically announce that I don’t know how to spell a word. Then, I introduce the strategies that writers use for spelling. Notice: ask the teacher is not one! I proclaim that from this point forward, I will never spell a word for you. Phew, feels good to take that responsibility off my plate.
I use these free spelling strategy posters to guide the lesson and as a reference all year long.
I make sure to leave out a word or two as I write. Then I go back and reread. Oops!! What should I do now? Erase everything? No no no, just add a carrot ^. End of mini-lesson 3. Let them be writers! Then, we share in partners today.
And that’s it! The first 3 days of writer’s workshop are complete. After we work on building stamina, I start using mentor texts to introduce narrative writing. But, I still try to allow for as much freedom as possible. And our goal is to write everyday in some capacity.
Do you like teaching writing?