Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let's Light the Writing Fire!

A lifetime ago, I worked as a high school, then middle school, language arts teacher. One of my primary jobs? Teaching writing. I used fun ideas. Somewhere between then and now, my enthusiasm and joy for teaching writing got lost. It's time to find it!

On the recommendation of one of my favorite teachers, I started reading Kids Have All the Write Stuff; Inspiring Your Children to Put Pencil to Paper. (This book is available on Amazon, used, for the cost of shipping. I highly recommend it.) I'm newly inspired to make big changes in what we're doing with writing. I hope some of you join us!

My New Year's Goal: to excite my boys, ages 4 and 8, about writing!

Suggested Materials: the book has a lot of ideas, but I'm going to start by setting up some type of writing/art station (with tape, mini stapler, pens/pencils, art supplies) and providing each child with a writing box. If you use workboxes, you could continue with that format. I'm choosing to use something that looks different from our regular "school." I bought each boy a Sterilite 14" x 11" x 3 1/4" clip box with snap-on lid.

Box Contents: the idea is for the contents to change on a regular basis, providing many varied opportunities for writing. The box could hold felt pens and paper. A variety of cards. Some stationary. Cut hearts. Stencils. You name it. Anything that will inspire children to write. And what can they write? Anything! Lists, menus, journals, comics, poetry, puzzles...ANYTHING! I want writing to be a playful part of daily life rather than always being associated with regular schoolwork. Here's what we'll start with...

Feelings Journals
My 8yo regularly journals as part of school. To change things up a bit I made some journal templates for each boy that reflect feelings. My 8yo will get to rank each day on a 1-10 scale and then describe why he choose that number. My 4yo gets to circle a face for the day--happy, sad, or in between--and dictate or use invented spelling to tell about his day. I'm having them do this at the table as I prepare dinner so that most of the day has passed before they write. Ideally, I'll join them and write in my own feelings journal.

 Stationary Stuff
I have piles of old stationary (going back to my childhood--check out the photo!) that has pretty designs, pictures, etc. I'm going to put an assortment into each box along with stickers, envelopes and other correspondence-type material. Some of this will be "published" as we send them to friends and relatives. Others will be used as they play...making maps for their adventures, writing to each other, etc.

Future Contents
Mini-books of all kinds. Topic books...I'll demonstrate in a later blog entry. NCR/carbon copy paper. Adding machine tape. Tracing paper. Graph paper. Varied art materials.

I'm planning to change out the contents every few weeks. I'd love to hear your ideas for box materials. Anyone want to join our writing adventure? ;)


  1. I decided to make a writing table in our little classroom for DS4. It includes a small basket with lots of pencils with different designs (he currently has to do everything with a Christmas themed pencil), and a small pencil sharpener. Also, around this table are colored pencils, all different sizes and colors of pens, lots of paper and old postcards/Christmas cards (with the back cut off), dry erase boards, large and small clipboard. On the wall next to this are a few photos of what we are studying for writing prompts. Since he's young, he draws a picture and then he tells me the words to write for the story. He also has a journal where he writes his name each day (soon to be adding practice of writing phone number, address, etc.)

  2. Leann...LOVE THIS! You're awesome! Now I know what I'm doing next December!!! :)

  3. Those are fantastic ideas. I also want to try to add more writing to our "afterschooling" activities since daughter is somewhat more interested in actually putting something to paper. I noticed that having "themed paper" works well for her - tomorrow she will be writing her New Year Resolutions on this paper - http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/new_year_resolutions_paper.htm

  4. We loved the Gooney Bird Green books by Lois Lowry. Follows a second grade class and introduces various writing/language concepts in a fun way (storytelling, fables, dictionary use, poetry). We need to be more diligent having our kids write letters--great use for childhood stationery (I too have quite a stash!).

  5. Great ideas everyone!!!! Thank you so much!

  6. Hi!

    I homeschool our 10 year-old boy, and I love to write and teach writing! I appreciate your blog as math is not my strong suit. Since I have gained from you, I wanted to pass on some book suggestions to you. I hope they help.

    "Unjournaling" by Dawn DiPrince This is a FUN writing book, and she has lots more that look great (this is the only one I have from her right now). Fun, funny, imaginative writing excercises- especially for boys! Reasonablly priced on Amazon.

    "After the End" by Barry Lane All about teaching revising (which our son hates because he is a perfectionist). I cannot say enough about this book- truly has transformed how I teach not only revising but writing. Sort of spendy on Amazon, so I found a used copy on ebay. Would have been worth the money I would have spent on Amazon however.

  7. My son loves to write, but only about highly preferred topics (Star Wars, Harry Potter). Hopefully this will begin to expand as he grows older. But I just don't have time to work on that right now. :(

  8. Thanks for all the ideas! I'm looking up the books!

  9. Those books look terrific! Love the comments that make them sound like good follow-ups to Nancie Atwell. I used to use her format in school. Thanks so much!


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