Written by Guest Blogger Jessica Thompson, 4th Grade Teacher
Writing. The minute the word is mentioned there is an audible, in-sync sigh from the students. Of course, there are a few super excited students who cannot get their ideas down quick enough. For every handful of excited writers, there is a large portion of the class that “has nothing to write about.” The struggle is real, y’all. For both teachers and students.
Why Writing Is Difficult
Writing is an extension of reading. In upper elementary students are no longer learning to read, they are reading to learn. They are expanding their knowledge with new vocabulary and higher level thinking. We want them to think, think, think then write about what they are thinking, and apply new skills in their writing. The big question for teachers is not only how to make writing fun and engaging, but how do we get students excited about writing?
Using a Personalized Writing Notebook
One tip before you begin that may help motivate students is to have a personalized writing notebook. This is something that is theirs and they have more ownership over. Plus, they can decorate it with things that are important to them to help stir up ideas when they write. Composition books can easily be decorated with pictures, stickers, photographs, etc. and covered with contact paper.
Bonus: Writing will not get lost easily! Make one yourself as a teacher and use it! Let the students see you write. Read your writing to them and make time for students to share too.
Writing Activities To Try
Here are 8 Activities to try with third, fourth, and fifth grade students. These activities are to get our young writers excited about writing which will make formal writing tasks less daunting.
- Think-Write-Pass: This is always a favorite that gets lots of laughs. Also, this activity can be adjusted in so many ways. Students get in groups of four and each has a piece of notebook paper with their name on the top. Students can be creative and write a story about anything they want, or you can give them a topic like “summer.” Students have 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes to write (it’s up to you!) and when the time is up, they pass their paper to the next student in their group. Each student in the group will have to read, continue the writing, and pass the paper. When each student gets their own paper back they get a few minutes to complete the story. If time allows: let the groups choose their favorite one to share.
- Sticky Note Stories: Students want to share stories with us. There are so many stories - from their weekend, the ball game, recess, at their Aunt Barb’s birthday party 5 years ago - that they want to share. It’s usually the ones who want to share these stories the most with us and have that attention that are the same ones who have nothing to write about. Sticky Note Stories are an easy solution. A post it is not nearly as intimidating as a piece of notebook paper. When a student has a story tell them how much you want to hear it and let them share, but they have to write it down on the sticky note first. A holiday weekend? A school event? Everyone comes back and writes a Sticky Note Story. These can be hung up, students could share with 5 friends, etc.
- Found Poetry: Give students a piece of text from a book you are reading and have them find words or groups of words throughout the text to create a poem. They can circle these words and draw pictures or designs around everything else to make the poem pop. Students can also use words cut out from magazines to create a poem. It is best to precut words and have them in a container to make sure all words are appropriate.
- Nature Poems: Take the notebooks and pencils to the outdoors for 10-15 minutes. Have students sit and use their 5 senses to write observations. From these observations they can write a poem of their choice. There can even be guidelines such as poems must contain a simile or metaphor. Everyone can be a poet. There are so many ways to write poems and this gives students the freedom to be creative.
- This or That: Give the students some choice and control. It can be time consuming to create choice boards with 9 options, but with This or That you only need to create two. Let’s say you want students to practice having a clear beginning, middle, and end. One option could be to rewrite their favorite fairy tale with new ending or to write a narrative about a time they won something.
- Silly Pictures: There are millions of funny pictures without captions on the internet. The key is to find appropriate ones and save them for later use. Put the picture up on a projector, mirror it to a screen, or print it out. Students will write about what is happening in that picture. This is great to practice skills such as predicting, inferring, cause and effect, and problem and solution.
- Persuasive Letters: Two birds, one writing piece. Students will practice formal letter writing and learn how to have evidence in their writing to back up their opinion or argument. Students can choose who or why they want to write a persuasive letter. They could write to their parents on why they should have a later bedtime or get a dog. They could write to the principal on why recess should be longer. They could write to an author on why they should write another book in their favorite series. The list is endless. Students have fun arguing their point and they will learn quickly the importance of supporting their claim.
- Quick Writes: Quick Writes are a timed writing. The idea is not to scare the students, but for them to get their ideas on paper as quickly as possibly and to be writing or thinking the entire time. Students are given a prompt and they respond. These can be expository, narratives, or any genre of writing. Quick Writes can be done daily for 3-5 days and then students can choose their favorite one to revise, edit, and turn in or they can be done for practice.
Any of these activities can be adapted to fit the needs of your class. Enjoy reading all of your students’ writing and watching them build their confidence as they write and share.
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