Building Writing Muscles

As a teacer, I've noticed something really interesting about other teachers. Even though many are not mathematicians, scientists, or editors, they feel completely comfortable teaching math, science, and reading. But something happens when we broach the subject of teaching writing.

Why is writing such a terrifying topic?

I'm in the same boat. I sometimes struggle to develop my students as real writers and steer them away from sentence starters and formulas even though I use them in the classroom. It's a difficult balance and writing requires some sophistication that comes from experience as well as lots and lots of reading.

The thing is, we practice math and science concepts through drilling and experiementation. We practice reading strategies through analysis and volume. When do we practice writing? My students write, but we're usually writing to answer a question or on a specific topic. Students don't get many chances for "No Agenda Writing" like they do for "No Agenda Reading" or to drill writing every day.

The Illinois Reading Council Journal arrived yesterday with the perfect suggestion from a website called WRITING WORKOUTS. I highly suggest you go to this site and check it out. Besides some great ideas for writing, there are some other resources, ideas, and recommendations that would be useful in a classroom.

The article highlighted some great ideas that I want to mention here because I will be using them right away:

1. One-Minute Journals: Write on an idea, your day, an interesting topic for JUST ONE MINUTE. Isn't that a lot less intimidating than ten or fifteen minutes for kids? I would probably use this as a "bell ringer" or something that students can do most days of the week in order to get their writing muscles moving.

2. Haiku Journal: Similar to the One-Minute Journal, students write a haiku that represents their day. I'm starting a unit including poetry and this would be a great way to introduce kids to the form of haiku and building fluency with writing.

3. List Poem: Students simply think of a topic that is important to them and create a list of all the things they can think of on that topic. Over time, this kind of thing can become more poetic when we encourage them to add in description and transitions.

We'll make writers of them yet!

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