September 11 2018

The Writing Process: Prewriting

For Inspiration

What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada is a picture book that I discovered recently and I think it would be an excellent read aloud to emphasize the importance and value of having a good idea. It is a story about a young boy who has an idea, but ignores it because of what others think. He is tempted to let it go, but in the end he changes his mind. This book could be used to start a discussion about having different and unusual ideas, sticking with them, and how they can make a positive contribution to our world.

A big goal that I have for my upper elementary students is for them to become independent writers. By this I mean they can work independently and productively during writing time while I am doing one-on-one conferencing and working with small writing groups. For this to happen, students need to understand how they are to work through each step of the writing process. For the next several posts, I will share how I have interpreted the writing process for my students.

The first step in the writing process is prewriting. I think of prewriting in two parts.

Part 1  Students find multiple writing ideas.

In my opinion, coming up with multiple writing ideas is the most challenging part of the writing process for young student writers. They are often stomped before they have even started! So I am a strong believer in helping students learn that there are many ways to find writing ideas, and that their ideas at times will be different to someone else’s and that is okay. To get students started, I recommend spending at least two lessons focused on finding writing ideas, and how to keep track of them in their writer’s notebooks. This does not mean that they will use every idea they have, but they will have a bank of ideas at their fingertips. It would be helpful if you could give them regular reminders to grow their list.

Here are some ways students can find writing ideas.

  • Brainstorm a topic
  • Freewrite
  • List ideas of things they are good at, things they know a lot about, favorite places, best experiences, favorite people, Wow! Moments, Oh, no! Moments, I remember when moments
  • Talk about ideas with friends and family
  • Look through newspapers and write down headings that could be turned into a story
  • Take the characters from a familiar story and write an original story
  • Lift a line from a morning page entry and develop it
  • Daydream

Part 2  Students choose one good writing idea.

Once students have multiple writing ideas they should choose one good idea to take through the writing process. They need to decide the purpose for their writing. Are they writing to inform, to persuade, or to entertain? Each of these will require a specific writing structure for the writing to hold the reader’s attention.  Who are they writing for? Which genre will best convey the message that they want to communicate?

Next, students will choose an approach to plan their writing. They may decide to brainstorm, use a graphic organizer, do an outline, etc. Once they have written a skeleton of an idea, they are ready to move on to the next step, drafting.

Happy Writing!


Category: Morning Pages, Picture Books, The Writing Process, Writer's Notebook | Comments Off on The Writing Process: Prewriting
September 6 2018

Let’s Take a Break!

How’s it going? In this post I want to take a break and give you a chance to do a quick review. I have written a variety of posts, but below are the seven key posts I think will help to get writing in your classroom moving in a positive direction. When you click on the titles you will go to the identified posts. So, get a nice cup of coffee or tea, relax, and read away!

6 Read Alouds for Discussing Personal Narratives

6 tips for Creating a Writing Environment

6 Tips for Decorating a Writer’s Notebook

Watching Student Writers!

Morning Pages

Closing Circle

 The Writing Process

How’s it going? Hopefully, you have laid the foundation for diving into your class writing time and writing with your students. Now let the work begin!

Happy Writing!


Category: Assessment, Closing Circle, Morning Pages, Picture Books, The Writing Process, Writer's Notebook | Comments Off on Let’s Take a Break!
July 18 2018

6 Read Alouds for Discussing Personal Narratives

July is a good time to start thinking about the read alouds that you will use in your classroom. At the beginning of the school year, I like to start with students writing personal narratives because I think this genre helps students to ease into their upcoming writing lives. I tell my students that a personal narrative is a story that has happened to them.

Read alouds are one way to create discussions around personal narratives. They can be used to spark writing ideas that students can brainstorm in their writer’s notebooks, and students can make personal connections to the experiences of the characters and situations.  For example, after reading Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, students can discuss their own memories. They could write about the ones that mean the most to them.

Here are 6 read aloud suggestions that can help you get started with your read aloud collection. 


Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

A small boy lives next door to an old people’s home.  Miss Nancy is his favorite person to visit at the home. He learns that she has lost her memory. He asks the people in the home, “What’s a memory?” and gets lots of examples of things that make memories. He sets about to gather memories for Miss Nancy. When he gives her his box of memories, Miss Nancy finds her memories.


My Very Own Room by Amada Irma Perez   

The author shares her experience of growing up in a tiny, two bedroom house with a large family. In the story, she is almost nine years old and shares a room with her five little brothers. They often have visitors that make the house even more crowded. She longs for a room of her own where she can read, write and dream, but their house is too small. She spies a tiny closet and with her family she turns it into a tiny bedroom just for her.

This story is told in English and Spanish.


Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Grace loves stories and acting them out. She wants to play Peter Pan in the school play. One classmate tells her she cannot be Peter Pan because she is a girl. Another tells her that she cannot be Peter Pan because she is black.  Her family helps her overcome these opinions and she realizes that she can be anything that she wants. She auditions for the play and gets the part she desires.


 Where’s Rodney? by Carmen Bogan

Rodney is easily distracted when he is in the classroom because he loves to be outside. The class is to go on a field trip, but Rodney is not excited because he thinks he knows all about parks. In his experience, they are no big deal! When they go on the field trip Rodney is in for a big surprise. He is able to experience the outside like never before.



Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

The main character has only one enemy, Jeremy Ross, and he wants to get rid of him. His dad tells him the fastest way for that to happen is for Jeremy to eat Enemy Pie. His dad offers to make the pie but for it to be successful, the two boys must spend the day together. The plan is put into action, but there is an unexpected outcome.



My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams

Eight-year-old Sangoel is from Sudan. He is a refugee. He leaves the refugee camp with his mother and little sister for America. His name is very important to him because it is the name of his ancestors. In America, he learns the American way of life. Each time his name is said, it is mispronounced by everyone he meets, he quietly corrects them but it continues. He begins to feel that he is losing his name and his identity. Then he gets an idea to help people understand how to say his name. His idea works.


Teaching Ideas

Anchor charts can be created with possible writing ideas suggested by students and displayed in the classroom as go to charts for when students need inspiration.

Also, read alouds are a great time to discuss story elements: characters, setting, plot, problem, solution, theme, and change. The constant reference to story elements will help students understand that these should be found in all stories including the ones they write.

 Happy Reading!


Category: Picture Books | Comments Off on 6 Read Alouds for Discussing Personal Narratives