Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tips for Using Writing Prompts as Inspiration During Writer's Workshop {FREE Writing Journal Covers}

I was so tired of hearing a collective groan from my students when it was time for writing. I taught the skills for narrative, creative, opinion / persuasive and informative pieces, but they weren’t always eager to practice those skills in their writer’s notebooks. The problem for many was getting started and coming up with quality topics and ideas to write about.  

This blog post will give you a link to some free printables and explain how I managed to… 
  • replace the chorus of groans with loud cheers and excitement about writing
  • solve the problem of what to do with early finishers
  • easily document their progress as writers over the course of the school year
Back in the day I used to have my students do journal writing, but found that many struggled with coming up a topic. Most kids would write the same genre of story in their journals (often starting with “Last night…”) over and over.  I decided to do something a wee bit more structured.

Each year we began by making a personalized Writer’s Notebook (inspired by the About Me collage in the book, Judy Moody) and collecting ideas in a Writer’s Idea Bank to use throughout the year when journaling. They always had the option of selecting a topic of their own, but the idea bank was a great help for those friends who “didn’t know what to write about.” However, the problem I observed was many kids still really struggled getting started. 

Once they had that initial sentence on paper they were off and running. 

That’s why I created a writing center with writing prompt task cards. The first set I made was for the month of October to capitalize on their love of all things Halloween and the intrinsic motivation it brings. The writing center included task cards with prompts and a collection of thematic paper for them to write on. They LOVED it and were more enthusiastic about writing than I’ve ever seen. It was such a hit that I made them for November and December and the other months in the school year as well.  

Last year I encouraged my class to set goals for reading and writing different genres instead of sticking to a favorite. To help them keep on track I decided to try something new. I made posters for each month to display with the task cards. The posters listed all the prompts found on the individual cards. I printed a copy of each poster from the different genres, added a cover, printed 15-20 copies of the thematic monthly writing pages (which were differentiated with different types of lines for students with varying abilities) and stapled them into monthly journals.

{Click to access and download the FREE Monthly Journal Covers}
The students used these when they completed their assigned writing projects during our writing block and when they were done with assignments in other areas as well. As part of our morning routine, they had the choice of writing in these booklets, reading a book of choice and working on their interactive bookmarks or completing unfinished work.

When writing in these monthly journals I asked that they rotate the genres from which they selected prompts so they would practice the different types of writing after the unit was formally taught. They were required to do their best work and implement the grammar skills from our monthly spiral review work, but I didn’t go through each booklet and edit every single entry. Instead, I used them as an informal assessment and based my mini-lessons and small group instruction on the needs I saw from their writing. For peer feedback they often shared their writing verbally with partners and the class. Every student would pick one entry each month to take through the writing process and publish. 

These booklets, in conjunction with the  published pieces, and our seasonal writing projects provided a wonderful way to document their growth throughout the year. 

I highly suggest you create monthly writing journals to use with your students. Each of my monthly packets includes writing prompt task cards, differentiated thematic writing paper, and the mini-posters I used to make the monthly booklets. They are available by the month or in a yearlong bundle.

I have created a collection of FREE printable monthly thematic journal covers that can be used with or without my prompt packets. 

They’re great for keeping a neat and organized record of your students’ progress for parent teacher conferences and look great when displayed at open house.

Please feel free to share this free product with any teacher or homeschool family that you think will enjoy them!

{Click to access and download the FREE Monthly Journal Covers}
What is your favorite genre of writing to teach?

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