Jazz Up Your Writing Center by Nancy Barlow
By Nancy Barlow, The Teacher Geek
Winter is the perfect time to refresh the activities in your writing center. By now, many of the students in your class have progressed with their writing skills, and are hungry for new writing challenges. Feed their desire to write with these easy, engaging writing activities.
1. Letter Writing. You may already have letter writing/post office as part of your writing center. Pump it up by having the students write letters to the principal, administrators, other teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, or other staff members. Convince the recipients to respond back, and it’s a fantastic way for the students to build positive relationships with the adults in their building. Management tip: Discuss the activity with potential recipients and give them an expectation for replies (3-5 days is reasonable). Nothing stifles letter writing faster than a reply that never comes.
2. Picture First, Then Write. Have students make quick pictures with stickers (“Sticker Stories”), ink stamps (“Stamp Stories”), or magazine cutouts (“Cutout Stories”). Then, write a story about the picture. This can help engage the students that are visual learners – the ones who need to picture something before they write about it. Encourage them to write about details that are in the pictures. Management tip: Limit the stickers/stamps/cutouts to three, or else some students won’t get to the writing part.
3. Make Lists. This favorite pre-writing activity can be easily incorporated into you writing center. List-making gives students a “safe” (read: non-evaluative) place to write ideas, and because ideas beget more ideas, it keeps the writing momentum going. Later, when a student says, “I can’t think of what to write about”, ask them to take a look at their lists. Management tip: Give a variety of specific prompts to choose from, and change them out on a regular basis. “Top Ten” lists are fun (“Top Ten Things To Do On a Snow Day”) as are lists of Favorites (“My Favorite Foods”). Have students complete lists in Writers’ Notebooks or Writing Folders, for easy access during Writing lessons.
4. Tweet! When students know they have an audience, they want to write, and write well! Using Twitter, the free micro-blogging website, is a fun way to keep students engaged. With the free Twitter account, you and your students can start sending “tweets” (in 140 characters or less) out to the world to interact with parents, other teachers, and other classrooms, providing an authentic audience that will hook even the most reluctant writer. Twitter can be utilized with the whole class during Morning Meetings or Day’s End Meetings. Individual students can also tweet classroom updates during Learning Centers or transitions. Many helpful resources for getting started and using Twitter can be found here. Management Tip: Have procedures in place to protect students’ online identities, such as having students use only initials, and making your classroom Twitter privacy settings “invitation-only”.
With a little TLC, the Writing Center can become the most popular Learning Center in the classroom.
About the author:
Nancy Barlow, aka The Teacher Geek, is a teacher, blogger, runner, compulsive list-maker, coffee addict, and sticky-note hoarder. You can find her at www.theteachergeek.com, @theteachergeek on Twitter, and in her home in Ridgefield, CT, surrounded by kids’ toys, unfolded laundry, and giant stack of teacher books on her nightstand.