Once, I was surprised with an administrator visit and teaching evaluation late in the afternoon on the very first day back from Winter Break.
I was thrown for a loop, but oh-so-thankful that I'd planned a fun writing activity for my middle schoolers to ease back into academia!
Over the past month, I've posted many practical writing ideas for classrooms, all aligned with Common Core Standards. They span the curriculum and multiple grade levels, and tested and proven in classrooms.
Here's a round-up of some of the best tips, links, & research along with some new ideas.
Kick off the New Year with some awesome and innovative writing plans!
1. Play-Based Kindergarten & Literacy: Providing the Language for Pre-Writing
If you can’t say it, you can’t write it!
Provide the Language for Prewriting: Here is a great example of a CC Writing Unit plan for Kindergarten: It provides photo examples, anchor charts, printables, and differentiation opportunities.
One of the things it emphasizes is the need for modeling and providing the vocabulary that the students need to be successful in that learning goal.Since the lesson plan centers on teaching opinion vs. fact, the provided sentence starters are as follows: I think, I feel, I like/don’t like, My favorite part, This was interesting because, the reason why, and etc.
Because, if you can’t say it, you can’t write it!
2. Tell me a Story, Tell me Why, Tell me How
Get comfortable with the three types of Common Core Writing: To Provide Opinions, To Inform and Explain, and To Write Narratives. Kindergarteners are full of stories to tell, ideas to share and opinions to express.
And no matter which part of the political spectrum you land on, we can all agree that learning to back opinions up with facts, explain ourselves civilly and differentiate between a story and a report are critical to the civilized future.
Here are some great examples of each:
Remember that the best writing lessons are a spiral staircase- revisiting the foundation while circling up towards new challenges.
This is a very important lesson. Second Graders read closely and interact with a variety of texts about the African-American experience, and then write and publish responses.
"By reading the true stories of Henry “Box” Brown, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, the Greensboro Four, and others, students see the links between historical events. Each student writes a narrative “from a box,” (i.e., in the style of Henry’s Freedom Box). They also write an opinion piece that is published either online or otherwise shared."
Students read narrative & informational texts, poetry & novel segments, and listen to read-alouds and read in groups. The depth of resources and suggestions in this powerful lesson is immense, and the study is centered around thematic questions such as, "What would you do to be free?".
Use in February, and circle back to the messages frequently!
4. Transform Writing in All Subject Areas through Multidisciplinary Projects
A Rising Tide Raises all Ships....Writing with good grammar, fact-based statements, and clear communication can transform understanding in ALL subject areas.
Here is an example unit plan from the University of Minnesota for 6-8th graders. Using a wide range of subject areas (and with the opportunity to expand and tweak to use even more), students broaden their knowledge base about human rights, explore a topic thoroughly, and finally:
"Make a Human Rights Booth: Direct students to gather all of their projects to create a booth that would tell the story of their project from beginning to end. Provide a checklist to help students plan what to include in their booth.
Example: My booth shows that I can…
___Communicate using human rights vocabulary in writing and speaking
___Describe, with examples, how human rights are upheld or withheld
___Gather, organize, and display data about a human rights topic
___Consider more than one perspective in collecting and making sense of data ___Draw my own conclusions based on the data I have collected
___Communicate human rights concepts in ways my audience can understand ___Create something appealing that will make people interested in finding out more about the human rights topic I chose"
This multi-disciplinary project involves research and encourages active citizenship, not only later, but now, as well.
5. Teach Socratic Writing
This article criticized the outright dismissal of the Late, Great Five-Paragraph Essay in favor of proposing reasonable tweaks and alternatives based upon age group and goals. The premise is that the Socratic 5-step argument has been reduced to a 5-paragraph argument which is unnecessarily constricting.
Yet, its a starting point!
The Socratic 5-step Argument is useful, but must be, and can be adjusted for 8-year olds.
Here's an example of the kind of printable resource provided:
Common Core requires multiple writing methods and essays of various functions, none of which have to look exactly the same or come from the same cookie cutter. If your students are sorting through complex texts & writing to think & express their ideas, you can get creative!