Encouraging Writing in Lower Elementary GradesChildren are extremely creative thinkers. As a third grade teacher I am faced with the task of grading students on their writing abilities, while...

Encouraging Writing in Lower Elementary Grades

Children are extremely creative thinkers. As a third grade teacher I am faced with the task of grading students on their writing abilities, while trying to encourage their creativity.  I like to begin my sessions with "What If?" situations. From that point we list possible situations, characters, and endings for short stories. The class composes a draft which is written on a white board. Students are then paired off to write and opposite ending for a story of their choice. The next day students are paired off again to revise their stories. Finally students are given the chance to share their story with the entire class or myself. Students are quick to catch errors in grammar when given the chance to orally share.  Thier writings are scored using the six traits of good writing. They're also given a cheklist to have them improve their writing.

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vkpteach | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Another idea to get students to think outside the box as they write is to have them think about word choice -- especially verbs (or action words if they are too young for part of speech terminology). Most young writers, even 5 and 6 years old know the difference between "she went" and "she pranced" or between "he said" and "he mumbled."

I agree not to hammer spelling and mechanics while drafting (Atkins and Calkins are still state of the art for teaching the art of writing), but I think even young students can learn to revise and edit their work later. For example, noticing details -- what can a person listening "see" and "hear" while a story is read.

The process writing Lucy Calkins introduced to the world two decades ago is about that: process. Even young writers can understand brainstorming, drafting, revising... all the way to publishing! With those ideas instilled in them, when they get to middle and high school their writing habits will stand them in good stead.

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cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Young students really can write before they can read!!  Offer them the use of a moveable alphabet and don't worry about spelling.  As long as their story is recognizable phonetically, it will strengthen their language skills and encourage their creativity.

Also, I urge teachers not to press young students to spell everything correctly or get their grammar right when they are writing a first draft of a story.  That will simply stifle their interest and creativity.  Once they have developed a story, you can work with them on spelling or grammar that they have been studying.  They can keep their own dictionary of words and practice looking up the correct spelling of those words in their list.  They can read their story to a partner.  While reading they will pick up mistakes on their own, and their partner can also offer suggestions.

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afi80fl | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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I like to use the "Daily Spark" from Barnes and Noble, as it provides a lot of fun, unique prompts that kids enjoy writing about.  There are a range of different topics, none of which require extensive background knowledge.

Each day, I start my class with what I call a daily quick write, or, DQW.  The kids know it's the first thing they should do, and it actually helps with classroom management by having some bell work ready to go, rather than spending five minutes trying to calm everyone down.  Additionally, it gets those creative juices flowing, and engages them from the beginning of the period, so that they are wasting less time socializing and more time practicing their writing and analytical skills.

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jessecreations | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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My son is in kindergarten, and writing is his weak point (his parents are both English teachers, ha ha).  He has Asperger's Syndrome, and his teacher told us that sometimes kids with Autism spectrum disorders have a problem because they can think faster than they can write, so they write badly.  I have seen this with my son; he has ideas of what he wants to say, but he ends up writing in a sloppy and misspelled way because his mind is too far ahead of his pencil.  We are going to work with him this summer on learning to type, which may help with this problem.  Typing rather than handwriting can be a way for many types of learners to engage with the writing process.

Another thing that helps my son is if I let him use one of those split-journal style notebooks.  In this setup, there is blank space for a picture on the top of the page, and then lined sections for writing on the bottom of the page.  So my son can draw a picture, and then write about his picture.  Since he loves drawing but hates to write, this provides a happy medium for him.  Also, the picture helps him feel inspired with ideas for writing, rather than just coming up with words out of thin air.

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tspire | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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I sea there are a lot of great ideas out there for helping students enjoy and understand the English language.  I have just begun using Lucy Caulkins' Units of Study.  I have seen such enthusiasm from my students for writing that I've never seen before!  I'm going to attend a week-long workshop by Caulkins this summer!  I can't wait for more great ideas.  One thing I've noticed about teaching writing is that you must have balance.  There are times when our spelling doesn't matter, and there are times when it does.  There are times when students free write on a topic of their choosing, and times when they need to respond to a particular prompt.  I've also noticed that proper grammar when speaking leads to better editing in our writing.  (I teach 4th grade.) We're over half way through the school year and I'm so proud of my little grammarians! 

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rainisfalling | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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Try having him record his story on tape first.  From there right down his story for him.

Also: Speech Recognition Engines: Take your choice:

http://www.bumpersoft.com/Utilities/Voice_Recognition_and_Text_To_Speech/

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michelleizzo | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Have you seen the WReck This Journal book? Well get one, and create different, out of the box activities that are great for your age level and student's abilities. Have them create a decorated page of words that describe them in many colors, or have them sketch and label a bird they have observed. Make writing something they own. Make it purposeful. Allow them to write things that no one else will read, and have them mark pages by folding them over twice. Write letters to your students , and do not mark up their journals with a ton of your ink. Be generous with inventive spelling- so they do not get bogged down with worry. Think- less is More... Do short writing snippets, and lists! They love making lists in 4th grade- like the top secret ingredients in their fridge!

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meelshaw | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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I feel there's nothing more important than teaching those types of pre-writing strategies. Graphically organizing prior to writing, even at that early level, paves the way for writing that follows an organized, logical progression of thought. Keep up the great work! Bless your heart by the way. I taught first grade for a while and I must say it was A LOT more work than people think it is. FAR more rewarding as well!

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smajjr | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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I teach first grade but took writing classes for young adults.  In my first grade classroom I encourage them to spell phonetically but also to make sure that they give me complete sentences, not one-word answers.

We have begun to introduce them to the Step-Up to Writing program.  It is an easy way to introduce them to graphic organizers and topic sentences. By teaching them the writing process while having them write about topics they find fun and interesting.

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lacrossemom | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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My kindergarten students write exactly as cburr stated ... phonetic spelling and not worrying about spelling errors or gramatical mistakes.  The students skip lines between sentences so that I can add proper spellings and they can learn from their mistakes.   I do that simply for their benefit/learning.  I often allow my students to find a picture in a magazine that they like or that intrigues them.  They can describe the picture, what is going on in the picture, why they like the picture, or they can tell a story based on the picture.  They can put themselves in the story if they wish.  The best thing to do is to encourage and guide them along as many find writing difficult. 

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bczolowski | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Encouraging Writing in Lower Elementary Grades

Children are extremely creative thinkers. As a third grade teacher I am faced with the task of grading students on their writing abilities, while trying to encourage their creativity.  I like to begin my sessions with "What If?" situations. From that point we list possible situations, characters, and endings for short stories. The class composes a draft which is written on a white board. Students are then paired off to write and opposite ending for a story of their choice. The next day students are paired off again to revise their stories. Finally students are given the chance to share their story with the entire class or myself. Students are quick to catch errors in grammar when given the chance to orally share.  Thier writings are scored using the six traits of good writing. They're also given a cheklist to have them improve their writing.

Two of my favorite programs that I have used in grades 1, 3, 5, and now six are Lucy Caulkins and Nancie Atwell. In Lucy's lessons (availalbe at heinemann publishers), you start with a mini-lesson, models the expectations. Students are then treated as "real" writers, and even call "writers" instead of "students" by the teacher during writing workshop. My students LOVED this and if we skipped writing for one day, they always complained. As for Nancie, my favorite part is the "Poem a day". I use this daily with my 6th graders and am amazed and am amazed at whay they come up with on their own during conversations.

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caasmom | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Writing is a two-sided coin, grammatical and creative.  Using the six traits of writing series, my students have made major improvement on both sides.  However, I want them to gain more.  I begin the year by explaining that all jobs require writing.  We examine all their career goals and find where writing is necessary for their success as adults.  This gives them purpose.  We explore types of literature and their literary elements.  I believe that offering examples of good writing is the best way to accomplish greatness within a subject.  We practice both side of the writing coin at the beginning of each class.  We will complete a couple of DOL (daily oral language) sentences that contain major grammatical errors.  Students are amazed at their ability to find mistakes.  They are also, during the process, able to recognize their own mistakes and improve their grammar through writing AND speaking.  We also complete a journal writing exercise everyday.  They may journal on a fascinating picture, free-write, complete a "doodle journal" some days, or they may write on a thought provoking topic for which I provide.  This activity completes the practice of the creative side of the writing coin.  I am completely agree with afi80fl that getting juices flowing in the beginning of the year and each class is paramount to students' education and the lifelong necessary skill of writing.

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teacher123abc | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Try having him record his story on tape first.  From there right down his story for him.

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