Creating WRITERS

Some kids hate to write. They're little, their hands are too small, they're struggling to learn letter sounds and words, they are too obsessed with spelling every word correctly, they have no good ideas, they have low language skills--little ones have very valid reasons for hating to write.

But in my classroom, they LOVE to write. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. 
And they're good at it too. 

But getting this point wasn't fast and it wasn't easy. Over the years I've been to countless workshops, observed many many classrooms in all grades and discovered ideas, tips and tricks to get all kids, no matter what their language ability was, no matter what their reading level was, or their personal struggles, to feel like successful writers. 

Below are several ideas I've used with both kindergarteners and 1st graders that really got them motivated and feeling good about what they were doing. 

This was a writing assignment we did after reading
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown.
I don't know...something about it just spoke to me...

Tips from My Classroom

  • Always, always build their confidence. Correcting spelling, remarking on their handwriting or neatness is not going to help kids want to write. Those skills will come when they're older, and with practice. At this age the important thing to do is to make them feel good about what they are able to do. Trust me, they will improve. Then they'll improve some more. And they'll love to write.
  • Have your classroom (or home) stocked with blank books. I made very simple books by folding 2 or 3 sheets of paper in half, stapling and cutting them--some in halves, some in thirds, some even tinier. (They loved the tiniest books.) Little blank books of all different shapes and sizes were placed in baskets around the room for kids to work on when they finished their work.
  • Whether you're teaching PreK, Kinder or 1st grade--get them writing and believing they're authors the FIRST day of school. Their writing, drawing and story telling will be a mess--at first. But they will love it, they will feel like writers and they will be able to see how they grow and blossom as writers throughout the year.
  • Have commonly asked for, non-age appropriate words posted in the classroom so they are not constantly asking you how to spell something. I made mini posters that hung underneath the white board. When the kids asked me how to spell Spiderman, princess or ice cream all I had to do was to get them to think of the first letter and then tell them to find it. This increased their reading skills, their reading and writing vocabulary and saved me tons of time. For words they were expected to learn during the year, such as word family words, science or math vocabulary, etc they were expected to sound them out, use chunks, find it elsewhere in the classroom, etc. 
  • Do Shared Writing periodically throughout the year. We often sat together as a class and I directed them in helping me come up with stories. We used elements we were learning in Reading, such as characters, setting, problem and solution. They would help me brainstorm ideas, create sentences, etc. And I would write it in front of them (or type it because that was faster). The kids got to see me make mistakes and fix them, cross things out and change them, add details, and more. This helped them stop focusing so much on making something perfect. It also helped them see that a story needs to have specific elements and took a lot of effort. 
  • Make writing feel important. I spent about 10 minutes one day showing my class books other kids had written. We didn't talk about it much. I simply showed them the books, talked about the kid authors and asked if any them wanted to be authors. They all raised their hands because this wasn't a "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question. This was about something they could be NOW. And they liked that.   Books I found: Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan was written when she was 12 years old. Noah McCullough's book, The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia was published when he was 10 years old. Alec Greven wrote How to Talk to Girls  when he was nine. Even No, David was written by David Shannon when he was a little boy. It says so right in the beginning of the book. 
  • Give kids a Spelling Dictionary. I used to have wonderful principals buy these for my class. The past few years I've had to make my own. There are a hundred ways to do this but what worked best for me was to print common words for each unit and let the kids paste them in the back of their Writing Journal (which were simple spiral notebooks). Pasting them in the back made it easy for 5 and 6 year olds to find them. I have lists for Halloween words, Fairy Tale words, Spring Words, etc. I'll post them here one of these days. :) Also, The Measured Mom made some Spelling Dictionaries you can print for FREE!
  • Have fun and different writing supplies available. Markers, blank notecards, colored pencils, stencils, envelopes, stationary--whatever you think kids will want to write on. 
  • Don't worry about end products or 'wasting supplies'. The more freedom and fun kids have writing, the more they'll want to write. And the more kids write, the better their writing will be. Their writing will blossom so much over the year. Just worry about end products on specific graded assignments only. 

Books that Encourage Little Writers

The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli
Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
Bear Has A Story To Tell by Philip Stead
Arthur Writes a Story by Marc Brown
Dr. Seuss (Rookie Biographies) by Dana Meachen Rau
You Can Write A Story: A Story-Writing Recipe for Kids by Lisa Bullard

Fun Activities that Encourage Little Writers 

Tips For Struggling Writers (Fine Motor)
  • Switch up what they write with. Offer crayons, markers, highlighters, chalk, writing tools of varying widths. Giving them options for writing tools will help them figure out what works best for them. Some kids might need thicker pens, some tall, skinny pencils. Switching it up can also make having to write more fun.
  • Strengthen those finger muscles by giving them the shortest pencils or crayons to write with. I learned this trick from an Occupational Therapist. It forces them to grip the tool correctly and builds those writing muscles. 
  • Another way to strengthen the finger muscles is with play doh. Rolling it into snakes and little balls takes a kind of dexterity they need to comfortably write.
  • Take away standard writing tools. Have fun writing with shaving cream, finger paints, squeeze cheese--whatever you can think of. They can write using their finger in sand, paint or pudding. It all may seem fun and silly, but it will make them feel successful. Then when they have a pencil in their hand again they might feel a bit more confident.

Websites that Encourage Little Writers

Author websites often have tips and videos for kids on becoming writers. 

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