Last time we talked about getting kids excited about writing and having them engaged, but now that you've sold them on writing, what's next? Pre-writing.

Pre-writing comes in so many different forms, and it's a crucial step in the writing process. But how do you get kids started?

Your pre-writing lessons could depend on what you want your final piece to look like, but often, I find it's good practice to simply remind kids what they know. Because all of the things that they already know are their potential writing topics!

1. Schema Activator: I love love love teaching my students the word "schema," and they think it sounds pretty cool too. I have a worksheet with a HUGE light bulb on it that acts as our schema activator. I give them two minutes to write everything that they already know about. Then, everyone stands up behind their chairs and we toss around our talking ball to share at least one thing we know. Once everyone has had a turn, the class has another minute or two to write down ideas they heard that they could piggyback on. The schema activator is now a tool we can keep in our writing folder and pull out whenever we need a new idea. I especially like to use it for journals or poetry writing.

2. Plot Planner: For narratives, it's important to have a plot planner, where students can write out their problem, solution, beginning, middle, and end. Having this organizer look like a story map reminds students that they are writing a *real* story. It also helps them see how you have to get from point A to point B. 

3. Break It Down: Some types of writing follows a very specific format, like certain types of poetry. If you're expecting students to write a haiku, then they need to know about syllables and how to count them and how to separate lines. A diamante has specific parts of speech for each line and a different number of words on each line. Using an organizer that has line by line instructions can be very helpful.

4. Alphaboxes: These are a great resource for students to collect all types of vocabulary throughout the year! Often, I use these for adjectives or character traits, and then we can break them out for alliteration writing or acrostic poetry. They're helpful because you can find a word that begins with a specific letter or you can try to vary the words in writing. This is another piece that we keep in our writing folder all year and add to it regularly!

Want to try some of these?

Click here for a blog reader only resource with a few of my favorite pre-writing activities.

What is your favorite type of organizer to use to get students thinking??

So now the kids are interested...they've filled out their organizers and are writing...what's next?? The big edit and conferences! Click here for Part 3: Writing Conferences.

Teaching writing can be very tricky because there are so many different kinds. There's narrative, informative, persuasive, and poetic writings. How can you handle all of that?? This blog series is going to go over different parts of teaching writing and how we can truly reach our students.

Step 1: Engagement

Some students love to write. And when I say love, I mean LOVE to write. They'll write journal entries for pages, have sentences that go on for days, and carry around notebooks so they can write in their spare time. 

Other students...well...they might dislike it. Some might even vehemently dislike it to the point that you're frustrated with trying to get them to even try! So how do you sell your students on a writing project??

1. Use a book or short story to engage them. When I teach about scary stories, I use an excerpt from Invasion of the Road Weenies called "A Little Night Fishing." Don't say a word about writing...just read them the story. (Scary stories are of course more appropriate with the lights off.) Capture their feelings about the story. How do they think the writer managed to make them feel that way? Ask them if THEY want to make someone else feel that way (whether it's scared or excited). Chances are, they'll say yes.

2. Choose an exciting topic, or better yet, let the students choose. Yes, students need to learn to write all kinds of different ways. But this is possible with SO MANY different topics. When I teach poetry in the spring, we take time to brainstorm as a class about all of the possible topics we could EVER write a poem about. Each student takes 2-3 minutes to write as many as they can. Then, they all shared at least one idea. After sharing, each student took another 2-3 minutes to write down some of the great ideas they heard. We love "piggybacking" off of each others' ideas. 

***Hand raised in the corner*** 
"But Cait, I'm really worried about letting them choose their topic completely. Is there a way to let them choose without really choosing?"


Give them a choice. For example, when I teach research and informative writing for the first time, I want to know that students can find the information they need. I need some controlled resources for them to develop their research skills, while still having enough different topics so each student can take charge of their own topic. I explain that we're going to be doing research, but I really need their help choosing a topic. Sometimes I give them a simple survey, which includes things they've learned about in science and social studies, but we can research more to learn more. Other times, we brainstorm together, then I create a survey off of topics that I know will fit our needs, and then we vote. 

What are some of your favorite ways to get students excited about writing?

Okay, great work, everyone. Now we've got them all engaged and excited...what next?? 
Click here for Step 2: Pre-writing.

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