Process and creative writing are important components of the elementary curriculum. Each day in the "Gateway" room some form of writing is included. Journals are used to write down thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Students have the option of sharing their entries daily by reading in the Author's Chair. Many of our published works begin as journal page entries.
The Four Square Method of Writing is used to teach organization in process writing. Students use a graphic organizer to brainstorm ideas and organize thoughts. They then write a rough draft, edit, revise, conference, and finally, publish to share with the world their original works. For more information on the Four Square Method, click on the PowerPoint presentation below.
I am excited this year to be teaching Daily 6-Trait Writing in addition to the Four Square method. This writing program focuses lessons on six areas of excellent writing: Ideas, Organization, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Voice, and Conventions. Click on the PowerPoint link below to learn more!
Writing genres that I teach include narrative, expository, persuasive, descriptive, friendly letters, poetry, and non-fiction. Since writing is one of my favorite subjects to teach, my students do MUCH in this area! They especially enjoy creating "class books" and taking them home for an evening to share with family and friends. In addition, each student has a writingportfolio for "star-quality" published pieces which becomes a wonderful tool for tracking progress and improvement made throughout the year. The portfolio will no doubt become a treasured keepsake for years to come!
Writer's Workshop consists of a mini-lesson, student writing time, and author's chair share each day in our classroom. Read more about our Writer's Workshop below!
Writer's workshop begins with a mini-lesson. Mini-lessons are short 5-15 minute lessons in which the teacher addresses writers' needs. Often these mini-lessons are developed because of specific things the teacher has noticed in students' writing. Mini-lessons are conducted as a whole group.
Writing Genre Units
In our classroom, writing is taught through genres. This helps students understand the different types of writing and helps expose students to a variety of purposes for writing so that each child can find his/her own special niche. Our writing genre units will include the following:
Sentences & Paragraphs
Tall Tale Writing
Magazine and Newspaper Articles
Six +1 Traits
The Six Traits are a major focus in our writing and are introduced in mini-lessons. The traits are then integrated seamlessly throughout all of the genre units so that students are constantly focusing and thinking about these components of their writing.
Four-Square Writing Method
The 4 Square Writing Method will also be incorporated into all units to help with the prewriting (planning) or ideas and organization.
Independent Writing Time
After the mini-lesson, students have independent writing time. During this time students are working on their own stories. Students should be applying the skills taught during mini-lessons. The teacher spends this time conferencing with students about their writing on an individual level. Students may work at their seats, or find a cozy place in the classroom to write. Our only rule during this time is that everyone is WRITING!
Each student has his or her very own writer’s notebook.This is a very special and important writer’s tool.It is where ideas, thoughts, and meaningful memories are captured.We begin to fill the writer’s notebooks during the first week of school.
After independent writing time, we have "author's chair." Students have the option of sharing something that they're working on in writing with the class. Students sit in a special "author's chair" and read while others listen and offer positive and constructive feedback.
After several pieces of writing have been completed, students choose one piece of writing to publish. This is the piece of writing that students will take through ALL of the stages of the writing process:prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, evaluating, and then sharing the final writing with others. Students may choose to publish their writing in a variety of ways.The error-free finished products are hung in the classroom or hallways for others to enjoy! They are then placed in the writer’s portfolio which becomes a treasured keepsake at the end of the school year.
·write to and for children, with children, and encourage writing by children
Teachers write personal notes in student journals, leave notes on the chalkboard to the class, or write stories for children to read. Teachers model good writing by planning and writing as the students plan and write, setting the stage for good writing attitudes and habits.
·know the attitudes, interests, and backgrounds of students
In order for teachers to facilitate student writing, they must use their understanding of the children. The more the teachers know about their students as individuals, the better they are able to guide them in generating topics for writing or further study.
·focus instruction on effective writing strategies
Research shows that one of the most effective ways of teaching writing is for teachers to model all aspects of the writing process.
Writing is an on-going process and needs to be assessed in the same manner.
·share samples of their own writing in process and in final form
Teachers share their own writing with students and use think-alouds to show how they address different parts of the process. In this way teachers model the questions and habits of writers.
·need daily opportunities to write
Daily writing is used for practice and for specific purposes, not formal assessments. Children need opportunities to write in all content areas and for a variety of reasons which might include recording events, invitations, letters, giving directions, personal notes, imaginative stories, and summaries. Writing enables students to learn new information and to clarify their own thinking.
·need daily opportunities to share writing
Sharing their writing with others including principals, parents, custodians, cafeteria workers, other students and teachers, and other community members helps students realize their ideas are valued and helps them write for different audiences.
·need opportunities to select writing topics
Students need to choose topics to write about that mean something to them as well as those prompts which the teacher might supply. Teachers find it beneficial to write about the topic prior to assigning it to students for writing.
·need opportunities to participate in appropriate prewriting activities
Much talking is required. This activity may take as much time as the actual writing, for it is equally important. This may include generating lists from brainstorming, retelling familiar stories, sharing experiences, gathering information, and telling the story orally prior to the writing. Time spent in prewriting will strengthen the rest of the process and insure a more satisfactory final product.
·need opportunities to clarify the writing assignment as to purpose, audience and format
Children should have the opportunity to write to a variety of audiences -- themselves, teachers, older adults, and peers. This will help them learn different ways to address these different audiences.
·need opportunities to experiment with language
Writers must be exposed to writing fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, mythology, legends, fables, folk tales, mystery, short stories, sports, romance, prose, poetry, biography, and autobiography. They grow when they participate in choral readings, dramatic interpretation, public speaking, and reader's theater. They respond to opportunities to develop their oral language and to make connections between their reading and writing.
·need time allotted for multiple drafts
Time needs to be allotted for drafting both in class and at home. This is an essential part of the writing process. Not everything written is ready for publishing the first time. This is a time for taking risks without fear of judgment and a time for revising first attempts. This is a time to pour out words on paper to catch the idea and refine the ideas.
·need writing as an extension activity for literature study
As an extension of literature, writing should include shared writing, collaborative (group) writing, and other activities so that students can compare and contrast characters, interpret stories, draw inferences, make story maps, and write plot summaries rather than responding to short answer worksheets. Students need to be given a choice as to how they respond to the piece of literature.
·need collaborative writing experiences
Students learn different forms of writing, how to address different audiences, and how to think through the writing process by working with others. Having the opportunity to plan and write with others develop students' confidence in their writing ability.
·need opportunities to write for authentic purposes and real audiences
Students learn to write for each of the functions of written language (see Functions of Written and Spoken Language).
·need writing folders and/or portfolios
Examples of student writing should be selected by the teacher and the child to document progress.
Beginning: Begin with a bang. Use action, dialogue, sound effects, or thoughts and feelings. Students are told to start as close to the main setting of their story as possible. They need be already up, dressed, teeth brushed, and breakfast eaten.
Details: This is possibly the most important area that ALL students can improve in their writing. Encourage your child to use specific adjectives, they should be able to "show, not tell" details by describing through actions and snap shots of key settings, characters, and items in their stories. Another way to do this is by writing action in slow motion. An example of doing this is rather than saying, Joe Bob hit the ball. say Joe Bob drew the bat to his left shoulder, and just as the ball was hovering over the plate, he swung and felt the crack of the wooden bat hitting the dirty leather of the ball.
Main Event: This should be the biggest chunk of the story and where most of the action occurs.
Focus: Students need to stick as closely to the prompt (the assignment for the writing) as they can. This also means that they should attempt to focus on one story. Often, children try to tell multiple stories in one, which results in short-changing all of them. Students who do not focus on one specific thing will risk a drastically reduced score on a writing assignment or standardized test item.
Grammar: Watch for complete sentences, the use of past tense, subject verb agreement, and varied sentence lengths. Point out to students that when the main idea changes, a new paragraph must be started. Stay away from "talking". Students love to have their friends in their stories, but this generally causes the entire story to be nothing but conversation, leaving no room for all those great descriptions and actions. Another reason conversation should be avoided is that many students in elementary grades still do not completely understand how to write detailed dialogue, which can cause the reader confusion. A few lines of well-written dialogue can enhance a story, but please encourage your child not to rely on it or use it heavily.
Ending: Stay away from the "it was all a dream" ending. This has been known to cause deductions on the writing test. Students have also been taught to add an extended ending after the solution. This should include a goal, wish, thought, feeling, memory or decision. Example: I have never felt more joy than when I found Spot after he had been missing for days. Dad was right. Dogs really do have a mind of their own. Checking the gate is now a daily habit of mine!
Go Alone! Third and fourth graders love to include everyone they know in their stories, but this causes them to waste time identifying all the characters. It also wastes space on their papers.
Style: Students can add style into their writing by using figurative language such as similes, metaphors, personification, onomatopoeias, etc. Encourage your child to incorporate one or two within a story. Don't overdo it!