Make your writing center engaging
This back to school writing center (actually all the writing centers) really helped me get more writing time for my students. Incorporating writing into every day was always a struggle for me. Reading and math always took the biggest chunks of my day and writing kind of fell off the wagon. I could always tell the years that writing really was on the back burner because my students either a. didn’t like to write or b. struggled to get anything on a page. You would never know writing is on my favorite things to teach because I felt like I barely taught it! I created my writing center to use during guided reading centers so that students were getting the opportunity to write every day (between the center and our actual writing block) and so that they were writing pieces that related to the common core state standards.
The writing center has ten different components: lists, notecards, informative writing, opinion writing, writing about illustrations, writing prompts/narrative writing, story starters, writing about illustrations, picture cards, how to stories, and book reviews. See my writing center here.
I’m going to introduce you to the back to school writing center in this blog post. Each month’s writing center has the same components, but the actual writing pieces change to match the seasons and holidays. I have another blog post about my writing centers here.
Picture This: Writing About Illustrations
Picture This is a class favorite. Students love to color the picture and create a story on their own based from the picture. The page has as “check-in” at the bottom so students can check their own work or give their work to a partner to check. If they did that particular thing (i.e. used punctuation) then they can color in the backpack. Picture This allows for creativity and is a fun writing piece.
How To Writing
How To Writing is an important skill to have because it teaches students how to be detailed in their writing. For example, if they are teaching you how to make peanut butter and jelly and tell you, “put peanut butter on it”, what does that mean? How do you put the peanut butter on? Do you use a utensil? What are you putting peanut butter on? Understanding how important details are is an important skill.
I call our opinion writing piece, Eenie Meenie Miney Mo because just like in the game, you have to pick one. In this opinion piece, students have to choose one or the other of two related topics. They color in the picture and then write why they prefer/chose that one.
Lists are fun to make for adults and kids. I love making lists. This is an important skill because it is getting students to think about one topic and writing everything they know/think/like about that topic. It is getting them to think about the details of the main idea (like in reading).
This is the most popular one. I actually have always had to put a limit on the notecards every year I’ve used this writing center because my students would only write notes and nothing else. They love writing notes to their friends, teachers, family, third cousins, neighbor down the street, their dog, their best friend’s stuffed animal, you name it. To them, there is no limit on who they could write notes to. So, I gave them a limit! It’s sweet though and a great way for them to practice writing short letters, using “Dear ___” and “Love ____” in their writing.
Book Reviews work really well for this center because I have guided reading centers right after we do independent reading. So, each student should have a book they could review. It’s fun to color in how many “stars” they would give the book and then explain why they liked it or didn’t like it. I have them display their book and review in the classroom library so that if someone wants to read it after reading their review, they can!
Informative Writing is fun because my students have always loved non-fiction books. I put out a tub of non-fiction books related to the writing topic so that they can read the book, fill out their KWL chart, and write about it. This writing piece does take longer than the one writing time, so they keep their unfinished work in their book tubs for the next time they’re at the writing center.
There are a wide variety of writing prompts for students to choose from. I keep them in a little holiday cup (that matches the month) from the Target dollar spot. There are a lot of narrative writing prompts, but also opinion writing, informative writing, letter writing, poetry, etc. They cover a wide range of types of writing.
The story starters do exactly that- start a story! Some students need these story starters to help them get words on a page and that’s okay! That is what these story starters are here for. Sometimes students have a difficult time producing a piece of writing or lack the confidence to get started. The story starters help them write something on the page and then hopefully helps them continue to write.
The picture cards are hung on my bulletin board for two reasons: 1. Students can look at how to spell something and 2. Students can write about that particular topic. Seeing the real-life picture helps them write.