September 18 2018

Here’s a Challenge!

This challenge is open to anyone who wants to grow their writing muscles. The challenge is to write for 10 uninterrupted minutes for the next 10 school days (September 19 – October 2). In other words, let’s spend some time doing morning pages. I am setting the challenge so that anyone who is hesitant about doing morning pages with their class, will experience it first hand, and see how their students will benefit from this kind of daily writing. Click on the morning pages link on the right hand side if you need a reminder of what to do, and for pictures that could be used for writing inspiration.

Now, you do not have to have a class to join the challenge and you can choose the time of day to do your writing. I do suggest that you write the same time every day, use a timer, decide where you will write, have a writer’s notebook, and pen/pencil/marker ready to get started.

Let’s write together for the next 10 days. I look forward to hearing about your journey.

Happy Writing!

Sonia

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!

Sonia

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!

Sonia

August 13 2018

Final Check!

Do you have all the materials you need to get your students started

on their writing journey?

 

You will need:

Writer’s notebook

Pen/pencil/markers

Here is my writer’s notebook. This is the same notebook that I used last school year. Initially, I wanted to buy a new notebook but nothing appealed to me as much as this one. I like the cover, the size of the notebook, and it still has a lot of unused pages. The pens I like to use are very inexpensive ones that I buy at the Dollar Tree. They have a nice thin point and move very smoothly across a page.

Why do I have a writer’s notebook?

I have a writer’s notebook because I want my students to see that I am willing to write alongside them, and show them how I work as a writer. In addition to this, as I do the same work, share writing strategies and specific writing skills,  I have more of an understanding of some of the writing difficulties that they experience, and how to address their individual needs.

You may feel uncomfortable with the idea of writing in front of your students, but do not let this put you off. I have felt the same way (and sometimes still do), but the more I write with my students the easier it gets. Remember, you are showing your students that you are growing as a writer the same way they are. Seeing you write will encourage them to try things in their writing!

 

 

Each student will need:

Writer’s notebook

Pen/pencil/markers

2 pocket writing folder

 

 

We are good to go!

 Sonia

 

August 1 2018

STOP!

It is the beginning of August. Have you chosen your writer’s notebook? If not, do not make another move until you have made a commitment to the notebook you will treasure during your writing life this school year. It is important for you to have your own notebook so that you can write alongside your students. You will not only model writing, but also show the struggles that writers face. This will help your students to see that you identify with them. When you write, it will help you to understand some of their writing difficulties and together work through the challenges. I have found that when I do this, I am able to share my writing with my students from a place of real understanding. You will be able to do the same!

Now, it is important that you carefully choose your notebook. Do you like a spiral bound book? Do you like lined or blank pages? Do you like a plain or printed cover? Do you want to cover a notebook the same way your students will? Do you want a large, medium, or small notebook? What kind of notebook will help to pull you into writing?

Once you start to think about your writer’s notebook, you will start to think about some kind of writing instrument. Are you going to use pens, pencils, or markers? Maybe you will use all of them! How will they feel in your hand? How do you want them to move across the page? How do you want the words to look on the page?

As you can see, a lot of thought can go into choosing a notebook. You might decide that you do not want to put so much thought into choosing a notebook and that is okay; but I want to encourage you to try as hard as you can to have something that you will treasure and that your students will know that you treasure.

Happy Searching!

Sonia

July 31 2018

6 Tips for Decorating Writer’s Notebooks

A good one-off activity for the first week of school is to have your students decorate their writer’s notebooks as they learn the routines and procedures of your classroom. It is one way to ease students into their new learning environment and to get ready for writing. Encourage your students to personalize their notebooks in a way that is pleasing to them. The aim is for students to see their notebooks as valuable treasures!  Here are 6 things to keep in mind.

Tip #1. You will need enough supplies for all the students in your class. You will need: glue, scissors, magazines, color markers, colored pencils, and notebooks for students who do not have. It might be that you are giving notebooks to all of your students. Try to have extra notebooks available for newcomers. Remember, some students may choose to bring in their own store bought decorated notebook cover designs.

Tip #2. Students can be encouraged to bring in personal pictures, stickers, etc. that they would like to use to personalize their notebooks. If you do not have enough magazines before the activity, you can check to see if any of your students can bring some from home.

Tip #3. I recommend telling your students to personalize only the front of their notebooks. This will mean you will use less plastic covering on each notebook. (Think budget!)

Tip #4.  Once students have chosen their pictures, they should make sure they are cut out neatly, arranged on the cover and all the edges are glued down. If students do these three things, it will save you a lot of time when you are covering the books with the clear contact film which is sticky.

Tip #5. Once students have finished, give each one a label to put on the cover of their book. If you are working with more than one class it is a good idea to color code them according to grade levels. This will make student and grade level identification much easier for you. Next, cover the covers with clear contact plastic. I recommend doing this because if the covers are left unprotected they will become tatty looking within a very short space of time. Remember, we want students to treasure their notebooks!

Tip #6. If a student has a store bought decorated notebook cover design that they like, during the lesson they can  work on designing a title page on the first page of the inside of their notebook. This does not have to be done by all students; it is intended to make sure that everyone is engaged during the lesson.

Happy Decorating!

Sonia

 

July 22 2017

A Meaningful Writer’s Notebook

 My Red Clay Writer’s Notebook

This summer I had the  opportunity to be involved with the Red Clay Writing Project (RCWP)  for two weeks. They are a part of the larger organization, the National Writing Project that is based in the USA.

During my Red Clay experience we did a LOT of writing! One of my biggest take away was how I became very attached to my writer’s notebook. I couldn’t believe how much my book meant to me by the end of the two weeks. I realized that this is the feeling I want my students to have about their notebooks.

So why did my notebook become so meaningful?  Surely if I could finger that out my students could have the same experience.

What I realized . . . What I am now thinking . . .
1 I had chosen my own notebook. I wanted a notebook that would encourage me to write. Students should decide what kind of writer’s notebooks they want to use and what they should look like.
2 Every day, there was a short writing time (10 minutes) before the main writing block. At the end of the two weeks, I had several different kinds of writing that I had started. Short focus time can give every student, regardless of ability the chance to capture some sort of writing on the page in 10 minutes, and overtime have a small collection of potential writing ideas.
3 A prompt was provided that we could use or not use. This took the pressure off trying to think of something to write on the days when I was not feeling inspired. On days that I was inspired, I was good to go! Providing a prompt can be a helpful starting point. It’s like a safety blanket that students can use when needed.

 

4 I wrote about what I wanted to write about. Students do not have to feel pressured to write on a specific topic.
5 I liked sharing small bits of my writing in my notebook. Students can share small amounts of their writing.
6 I liked that I didn’t have to worry about sharing what I had in my notebook with others. I could concentrate on my entry instead of worrying about comments from other writers. When students need to, they can be private about their writing.

 

7 When I looked through my notebook, I liked that I have different types of writing, sketches, things I have taped in, etc. Students should be encouraged to record their writing ideas in different ways.
8 I liked that it was okay to cross things out, skip lines, and have unfinished work. It’s not about having a perfect looking notebook. Notebooks do not have to look perfect. Instead it should look like a place where thinking is happening.
9 I liked that I could write on one side of the page and if I wanted to say more about the same topic, I wrote on the opposite page. Leaving the left hand side of the notebook empty gives the opportunity to revisit and add to a previous idea.
10 I decided what my writer’s notebook means to me. A writer’s notebook should be meaningful.

From this reflection, I came up with 10 things about a meaningful notebook that I want students to understand.

 

A Meaningful Writer’s Notebook means

1. You choose a special Writer’s notebook.

2. You write every day for at least 10 minutes.

3. You decide your writing topic.

4. You decide if you want to use a writing prompt.

5. You decide the writing you want to share.

6. You decide when you share.

7. You can write, sketch, put things in it, use colors, etc.

8. You are not trying to have a perfect notebook.

9. You revisit your writing and sometimes add more.

10. You write about things that are meaningful to you.

My plan is to share this list with my students to help them see how much ownership they have over their individual notebooks. I expect that once we start working, the students and I will tweak or change some of the items.

 

Writing Together,

Sonia