Writing...an important skill that often makes teachers and students cringe! How many of us have felt that writing lessons seem neglected or pushed aside to make room for more time teaching math and reading? Have you ever heard the groans or felt the tension in your classroom rise at the first mention of writing time? You have seen other classrooms and teachers who seem to love writing...how does this happen?
I have felt this way too and have spent hours in professional development and researching best practices for writing instruction. Writing is not a one hit wonder. It is a craft that needs daily practice and students need the opportunity to be explicitly taught many skills to continue to improve. One of the first hurdles we face, however, is getting our students engaged in the act of writing. How can we inspire our students to love writing?
While I do not claim to know all of the answers to this incredibly difficult question, I do know some tricks that have helped in my classroom. I have used a "Writing Workshop" method of instruction for many years (often in conjunction with the Daily 5). I teach daily mini-lessons to help reach my classroom of authors and help them with their writing craft. One of the first lessons I teach each year, however, is a favorite of mine. To introduce writing workshop and to get my students excited about writing I read one of my personal favorite books, The Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk, aloud to my classroom.
This book is full of fun pictures and contains a great story to inspire your authors (I have used this story with kindergarten-4th grade!). As the story begins you meet a mouse, Sam, who lives in a library. Sam decides to begin writing books of his own and offers tip/ideas to help with writing as he works on his own stories(of of his first tips, for example, is to "write what you know"). As Sam finishes his books he places them in the correct section of the library - a great introduction to a variety of genres is also found in this adorable story.
Of course the children and librarians who find the stories left by Sam fall in love with them and desperately want to meet the author. Sam decides to surprise them. He decorates a box and hangs a banner from it that reads "Meet the Author." This is where my favorite part of the book comes along. Before reading the book to my class I use a shoe box or tissue box to recreate the box Sam uses.
I have this box sitting somewhere out of the way in the classroom (usually on top of a higher bookshelf or cabinet). Inevitably when I get to the page of the book where the library opens and kids see this box a student will remark how they saw this same box in our room. In my most surprised voice I guess that Sam must have come to meet us too! I tell them that they can each peek into the box, but they have to promise that they won't scream so they don't scare Sam. I also ask that they keep the contents of the box a secret so everyone gets a chance to see. As a walk around the room and let students peer into the box their eyes and reactions tell it all! Inside the box is not a mouse, or a picture of a famous author. Inside the box is a mirror. Sam wanted the children to know that THEY are all authors. After each student in the class has a chance to see inside the box I finish reading the book.
As you can see from this picture, Sam also has left pencils and books (made by just stapling blank pages together) for the children. Of course, I have the same materials waiting to go on this day. We discuss why sam put a mirror in the box and the students are so excited to share that THEY are authors. I pass out books and tell them to feel free to write a story about WHATEVER they want. We talk about the genres Sam introduced and tell them they can choose whatever style they want to. We also discuss Sam's helpful hint that they can write what they know. You will never see students so motivated to write! It is amazing what folding some paper into a book shape can do! For this lesson, it is not about the content of their stories, or conventions of writing...for this moment it is just to get students to feel confident and know that they have the ability to be an author!
I plan to share more lessons and ideas to teach writing monthly on my blog! I would love to hear your ideas for teaching writing! Please feel free to comment below...How do you inspire your students to write?