Writing doesn’t have to be hard. Whenever I talk to fellow teachers about what they HATE teaching… it always seems to be writing. Why is that? I theorize that it’s because writing is very personal. There’s no cut and dry methods that work for ALL students. It is also time consuming to teach AND especially grade. But, I love teaching writing and have found over the years, the best way to get my kids to fall in love with writing also is through a consistent writing routine. For me, that means a 5-day writing routine.
For the record: I like things to be in 5 days. Isn’t life easier when things start on Monday and end on Friday?
The writing routine I’m sharing today, has been used for over 7 years. I’ve had major success in both my 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. Yes, you could do it with students that are later in 1st grade. I’d say mid-year and on. This routine can also be applied to older grades. I’ve seen 4th-grade teachers use this and 5th-grade teachers. Just know that the depth needs to be a little more than what I’m going to go into today.
You are the queen/king of your classroom. Take what I am sharing today and “make it work!” for you and your students!
Day 1 of Writing Routine: Set the Stage
Let’s start with day one! I usually like for this to start on Mondays. And for me, writing always start with a book!
Starting a writing project with a book helps to get your students’ minds thinking. The book can be a mentor text, pulled to help demonstrate a specific objective like grammar or small moments in narrative writing.
But understand that not every time you use a book before you write, does it have to be a mentor text. It could serve as a vehicle to get their brain thinking. We want our students’ brains to start thinking of vocabulary. We want them to start thinking of activities. We want them to start thinking of words. We want them to start making connections. We want to engage their thought process.
For back to school time, I love to write about about ourselves. One of our first writing projects is All About My Selfie. How are kids suppose to writing about other things if they can’t write about one of the things they know the most about? All About Me writing is the PERFECT way to help students understand expository structure, how to add important details, AND BONUS: You get to learn a little more about them too!
A great book to get kids thinking about themselves, is Leo Leoni’s: A Color of His Own. It’s all about how a chameleon wanted to be different colors based on different animals. In the end the chameleon realizes that he is unique because he can be all of the colors. This speaks to how we, as people, are special and unique and need to embrace ourselves. Perfect backdrop for students to start brainstorming ways they are unique and special.
In addition to using books to inspire our students, we need to make sure we’re focused on an objective for our writing. Sometimes the objective is just that your students are going to write. Other times, the objective is more about text structure. Other times we want our students to work on structure of their sentences. What ever the objective is, establish that objective in your lesson plans and carrying it throughout the week’s lessons.
Day 2: Brainstorm Our Thoughts
Day two is all about getting our thoughts out onto paper. A brainstorm starts to activate your thought process when you’re writing. Your brain starts to just go. A brainstorm can be something as formal like the brainstorm I have in my All About My Selfie pack where students are answering questions. Or a brainstorm can be very casual where they’re just doing a quick bubble map.
It doesn’t have to be big and formal, but you want students to have some sort of brainstorm. Some sort of pre-thinking that went into the writing. Because… if you can say it out loud, you can write it! So, if they can write short thoughts or ideas, we can work it into a sentence.
Make sure that the first few times you have your students brainstorm, you’re doing them guided.
Well, it’s so funny when I hear teachers say to me, “You know, I did a brainstorm, but they didn’t use it or they didn’t write anything on their brainstorm.”
And I’m all like… “Did you show them how to use it?”
Many students have never used a brainstorm, or aren’t sure what to put on their paper. You need to show your students how to develop the brainstorm. Model the though process behind it. So whenever we’re brainstorming, I usually do it together with my students exactly how I want theirs to look. This way, there’s no question as to if they’re brainstorm is “correct.”
Day 3 of Writing Routine: Rough Draft
The third day is all about writing! Rough draft writing, that is!
I personally have my students use a regular lined sheet of paper when we write. Ideally, we’ll skip lines between our sentences. This way we’ll have space when we edit. I teach 2nd grade, so regular paper works just fine. But, if you teach 1st grade or Kindergarten, you might want to use that primary paper.
Now, I always model my first few writings with my students. I model what I want to see. If I want to see a grabber at the beginning, I model that. If I want to see conventions, like capitalizing, ending punctuation, I model that. (This is especially at the beginning of the year!) Kids need to know and understand what good writing looks like from the beginning.
As I’m modeling, I’m pointing out different aspects of our writing. Maybe I’m showing how to use punctuation, or how to start a paper with a grabber. I’m also constantly re-reading out loud what I wrote to make sure it makes sense.
Writing While You’re Writing
Your students should be writing while you’re writing! Don’t just have them sit and watch you and then you send them back to their seat to write. You write a sentence and then have them write their own sentence that matches yours. This works great for the beginning of the year writers who are scared about where to start. Sometimes, there’ll be students that literally copy your writing. That’s OK if that’s where they’re at, and sometimes that’s where they will be for a little longer than you’ll want them to, but it’s OK. You want them to at least write! So, model what you want to see. Eventually, they’ll make the departure to their own writings. I PROMISE!
Day 4 of Writing Routine: Editing
By the fourth day, it’s time to start editing the rough draft.
I’m a huge believer in peer editing. But, you have to train your students on how to edit. To do this, I usually do a mini-lesson at the beginning of the lesson where I write something and I have someone come up and we edit it together. I make mistakes in my writing that most 2nd graders make, so the other student can help find those mistakes. Then, I can coach the student on how they’re going to teach me about the mistake. So, if you want to start peer editing in your classroom, I suggest you train them first! You don’t want your class to be like, “Oh, that writing was great!” and there are tons of mistakes.
This also the time where I’ll share our rubric that we’re using. This becomes a guiding force to perfecting our writing.
Now, while those students are doing peer editing, I’m usually calling students to my back table to do a writing conference. They have to have their paper read by their friends, first. At least one person, and then they can come meet with me one on one.
This is where I’ll review a rubric if we’re using one.
Sidenote: I love writing rubrics! They make grading easy! They also explicitly explain to my students what I’m expecting to see in their writings. Eventually, you’ll have students create the rubric. At that point, it’s kind of like magic!
When I’m doing writing conferences, I’ll sit and look through the rubric with them. I’ve already shown this to them, probably in the beginning of our rough draft writing about things I was looking for as I was modeling, but now we’re actually going to look at it a little more critically.
They have already gone through this, usually, on their own. This makes the second review a little easier.
This one on one teacher time is so valuable to improve students’ writings! Each meeting is tailored to what that student needs at that point in time! It’s a time to talk about their word choice or their conventions.
I always like to read their writing out loud to them exactly as it is written. It’s so funny when kids say “Well, that’s not what I meant.” And it’s like, no that’s exactly what you wrote. What were you trying to say? That’s when we start coaching and talking to them about we need to write what we mean and mean what we say. I think that’s a great little lesson that you can have right there on that one-on-one conference.
Managing the Class
Now of course, I have a whole class of students, so I need to make sure that I’m doing writing conferences smartly. While students are waiting for me, they are having their buddies peer edit with them. If they’ve finished that, I then they grab a white glue place it on their desk. That’s the indicator that they’re ready to come conference with me. While they’re waiting, they can grab a book to read. Or i there is some sort of craft, have them start on that while they wait. This is a great way to not to waste instructional time.
Day 5 of Writing Routine: Publish and Share
The last day is our publish and share day. This mostly happens on Fridays which is also when we take an assessment of some sort. Whether it’s a formative assessment, a summative assessment, or even just a quick diagnostic assessment and reading. After that assessment, I like to use the rest of that reading block to finish and publish our writings which is about 40 minutes or so.
During this time, students are rewriting their rough drafts that they’ve had edited by a peer and me. Students are using their self-checking rubric to make sure their writing has everything that I had communicated to them that they needed. Now remember, that when I was modeling, I went through this with them, so they are very familiar with the rubric by that point. We need to make sure we are communicating with our students, during writing, what our expectations are for that writing.
Pulling in a Craft
We also do fun little crafts with my writing because I think that adds a bit of art to the classroom and the students love that.
For example, in our All About My Selfie writing, they draw a little snapshot picture.
Sharing Our Writings
So, after we finish publishing, I give my students time to share. We son’t always have time for everyone to share in our classrooms, but one of my favorite (and easy!) ways to have EVERYONE share is through a strategy called “Triangle Groups”.
Triangle Groups are basically groups of three students where one is the speaker and two are the listeners. After that person shares, the two listeners give two stars, or two things they really liked about the writing, and a wish. The wish can be something, a question they had, or something they want to point out to the writer about their writing to help them think about how they can improve.
At the beginning of the year, I almost make it exclusively a question they still have, and eventually towards the mid and end of the school year, I teach my kiddos how to probe and ask questions. I teach them how to give feedback during that time.
This type of system is an easy way to have everybody share a writing in a short amount of time. Now remember, you want to keep a timer on Triangle Groups because they could talk forever, especially about themselves. I usually give about ten minutes, ten minutes is plenty of time for three students to share a writing. Especially in 2nd grade, because most of our 2nd grader writers are only writing a paragraph or two.
Easy Writing Grade
At the end of our sharing session, I make sure students have attached their rubric on the back. This makes grading our writing assignments so much easier! I don’t grade every single piece of writing that we do, but if we have a rubric, or we took the time to go through the writing process, I usually try to go through and check to make sure they have most of the requirements from the rubric. I grade about 1 – 2 writing projects per grading period. I think writing is very developmental, and an important part of interacting with text, so to take a grade on it every week can be too much!
Writing Lesson Plans DONE for your for the Rest of the Year
All the steps in this post today are outlined in all of my writing units! You can check out my writing units here!
In addition, sign up below to snag a free 5 day lesson plan template that will guide you through this planning process. This template will save you time and energy when working on your writing lesson plans by simply outlining the daily steps to include in your writing lesson plans.