Have you ever been excited about a lesson and only been met with groans and moans from your students? This happens almost every time I say the word “writing”! I absolutely love incorporating writing into my routine with cross-curricular ideas and sprinkling it throughout the day. You can bring writing activities into your ELA, Science, Social Studies, and even Math lessons! Did I mention that it can be fun too?!? Add these 13 ways to make writing fun this year to engage your students and be met with cheers instead of groans!
Immediately when a person hears the word writing, what comes to mind? Paper and a pencil, sitting in your seat, writing a story. Well, I found out quickly in my fifteen years of education that paper and pencil weren’t working and my students were really growing weary of using our whiteboards to practice our CVC words and sounds.
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Hands-on, multi-sensory activities provide students with more ways to connect to the content of the lesson making it more enjoyable and memorable. When students are engaged, the activities result in better memory of the skill taught. Although all students can benefit from multi-sensory learning, it can be particularly helpful for kids who learn and think differently. I use all 13 of these ideas in my classroom, but be sure to check out #13, it is my personal favorite!
1. Make writing fun with explicit instruction
Before my students can express themselves independently, I need to make sure I provide some direct instruction opportunities. Yes, we cannot just give our students a writing utensil and expect them to magically write a sentence. Well… a good sentence! Just like teaching any other subject, an effective educator provides direct instruction, modeling, and practice opportunities.
I like to have mini-lessons where I focus on a particular skill, taking baby steps. I like to start with some brainstorming activities because I found that sometimes that is the hardest stage for my students. Students struggle with just coming up with an idea of what to write about. Through dialogue, practice, and even anchor charts, I focus on the topic of brainstorming, before I move on to other writing concepts like punctuation, staying on topic, and adding details or descriptive words like in my anchor chart below.
2. Transform their writing in their way
Sometimes you just have to let students create their own journey. I don’t know about your students, but mine LOVE to tell stories. So much so that sometimes that is all they want to do (anything to delay the work, right?). It is time to put these stories into words, literally.
My students love creating through transformation stations! With only one mark, my students transform it into a car, a Ferris wheel, a doughnut, or even a controller or camera like the picture above! It is shocking to me that one mark can be 25 different things without repetition! I love that my students take the lead in writing and will work amazingly for those students that have a hard time coming up with a writing prompt during free writing.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that I love a cross-curricular moment? How about bringing writing into the world of science? I personally try to incorporate writing into as many subjects as I can. It may come as a surprise, but Science is one of those lessons that I find the easiest to pair writing with. Just think… observations, sequence of events setting up an experiment, hypotheses, and so much more!
There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of different scientific facts in this world. Did you know that wombats’ poop is cubed-shaped? What about that turtles can breathe through their behinds?!? I cannot wait to introduce some of these facts for my students to take and run with. They LOVE learning a new science fact and will tell anyone who walks through my door!
4. Hands-on, multi-sensory activities!
As educators, sometimes we need to get creative! In one of my first years teaching First Grade, I found myself standing in front of a large group of disinterested and reluctant writers. Whenever I said the words “Time for our Journal writing”… I heard audible groans and disgusted faces.
So, I began to ponder how to incorporate some writing without pencil activities for these reluctant writers. I learned from some extremely creative Occupational Therapists in my early years of teaching in Early Intervention that I knew would fit perfectly.
Hands-on, multi-sensory activities provide students with more ways to connect to the content of the lesson making it more enjoyable and memorable. When students are engaged, the activities result in better memory of the skill taught. Although all students can benefit from multi-sensory learning, it can be particularly helpful for kids who learn and think differently.
5. Challenge alert!
Once my students have a basic understanding of punctuation and capitalization, I love to throw in a challenge every now and then. I typically dictate a sentence for my students to write on their whiteboards. However, every now and then I flip the script!
I will sometimes write a sentence on the board, however, I make several mistakes on purpose. It is my students’ responsibility to edit the sentence appropriately. I will say “there are five (or any number) mistakes in this sentence (or paragraph)”. Then my students will re-write the sentence/paragraph on their whiteboards correcting the errors. We will then come back to our whole group and call on students to identify the errors. Once a student states a correct error they saw, I will use the appropriate symbols to edit the paragraph.
6. Providing a little nudge to get started
Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge to get going. Sometimes, I don’t have time for a full-on brainstorming session before we write. However, many of my students struggle with coming up with a topic to write about. They will sit there staring at a blank page. They will literally sit there for the entire period with nothing on their paper. If you ask them why they didn’t start or why they don’t have anything on their page… their response? “I didn’t know what to write about”.
Well, as I stated before sometimes we just need a little nudge. If you’re like me and some days need to save time and can’t use a brainstorming, graphic organizer, or web activity… Journal prompts are a saving grace! Whether I need a quick and easy prompt, a themed writing idea, or funny question, or a debate question. I just simply place a journal prompt slide on my smartboard and we are set to go!
7. Mentor texts to help
One thing (of many) that lacks in teacher prep programs is how to get students to write. How to get students to write well, that is. Also, if you personally, as an adult are not a fan of writing you may also stray away from numerous writing activities for your students because you just don’t enjoy them!
How about a mentor text? I believe that it is safe to say that most educators love a good read-aloud. Read-alouds are one of my personal favorite things to do! If I can pair a book with a lesson, I’m happy and all in! Whether you enjoy writing like me or don’t really enjoy writing, mentor texts are the way to go!
You can safely and comfortably teach numerous writing skills with a guide! Real text for your students to see, use, and refer to!
Alright, I have a slight confession to make. There are certain moments in my career when I “trick” my students into writing. Yes, I did say trick my students. It may sound horrible, but hear me out first before you judge!
Have you ever heard of a Directed Drawing before? Me neither until I stumbled upon them! I tried one with my students and they were asking for another piece of paper to continue their stories! WOW!
With easy step-by-step drawing instruction, your students are able to draw hundreds of things from food to cars, animals, and even fantasy characters! My students don’t even know this is a writing activity because they are busy drawing and creating! My steps in this activity are: 1) draw your illustration, 2) write your story, and 3) return to the illustration to add details and color.
9. Teaching writing is the best / Teaching writing is the worst!
What side of this debate are you on? I think by reading over half of this blog already, you figured out I am on the enjoy teaching writing side of the fence. However, you may be on the other side of the fence, and that is okay! Our students have a voice and interests too!
I like to bring student interest into my lessons. Sometimes I just ask them a basic favorite question. However, the catch is … they HAVE to tell me why. Why is it their favorite? This may take a bit more thought into a writing sample. I like ____ BECAUSE _____. Providing evidence to support a thought usually takes some time and practice.
With this evidence of support, I really enjoy bringing some “debatable topics” into writing. Should we have school in the summer? What is the best pet to have? Should we allow cell phones in school?
What I love to make sure I cover when bringing debate topics into play is a “sprinkle” of SEL. My class and I have a conversation about listening to others’ viewpoints and ideas without judgment. An open ear and an open mind. It is important for students to have an understanding that not everyone is going to have the same views on the topic as you…and that’s okay. We all come from different backgrounds with different values. That is what makes us all so great, as long as we stay respectful!
10. F – U – N!
I hope no administrators are reading #10 right now. Sometimes, you just need to shut your door and do what you know is best (and if you’re lucky – you can leave that door wide open and share it with the world) without worrying about a standard. We know writing with primary students is in a realm of its own.
We have to get creative and a little crazy when incorporating writing into our primary classrooms! From the materials, we write with, to the location we are writing. Sometimes, I have to get my students outside on a nature walk to write in a nature journal. Labeling the classroom at the beginning of the year and building a community with getting-to-know-you activities. I need and my students need FUN writing activities!
11. Where in the world did that come from?!?
I think it always starts with a lesson within my reading curriculum series. We introduce and compare the past and present. It talks about phones, schools, clothing, etc. My students are always amazed at the fact that if we were living back in that “black and white photo”, I wouldn’t be allowed to be their teacher because I am a male.
We start talking about how different inventions looked in the past compared to the modern day. This always leads to who invented those items. Well, now my students want to know who invented everything they see! On rare occasions, I can give them the answer on the spot, however, mostly I need google!
I love to bring some writing to pair with these inventors! Prompts such as: “What would life be like without their invention?” “What are the steps in the sequence of using the invention?” “If you could invent something, what would it be and why?”
12. I love a good theme!
I am ALL about a theme. Whether I am planning a party, holidays, or even sometimes planning a dinner for my family (yes, I’m weird like that on occasion)… I AM ALL ABOUT A THEME! Did you ever try to cook an entire meal based on a letter of the alphabet? Try it next time… for example the letter: B (3-bean salad, brisket on a brioche bun, broccoli, and a baked potato. Try some banana pudding for dessert with the entire meal washed down with some birch beer!)
Anywho, I digress from the topic of writing, unless we are writing down some recipes for each other! Themes are my jam, obviously! And, themed – writing opportunities do NOT disappoint! Whether you are focusing on the season, holidays, or the month we are in…my lesson plans are revolving around a common theme!
13. Write the Room
Save the best for last, right? Even though the twelve ideas before this one are amazing in their own way, there is something about writing the room, that I am OBSESSED with!
I love when I can allow my students to get up and move (in an organized, structured way)! Students get excited over the littlest things sometimes and when I say we are using a clipboard, they go nuts! A CLIPBOARD!?!
With their clipboards in hand and a pencil, my students are ready to move! Working around the room they need to find the write the room card and write the word (or even math problem answer) onto their recording sheet! Sometimes, I even like to “hide” the cards in random places to make it a bit more challenging for my students! Whether you are taping them to the towel dispenser, a magnet to the side of a random student desk, or even taped underneath a table… my students will be engaged and working together to find them all!
BONUS: 15 MORE Writing Ideas!
As we are aware, especially with these past 13 ways to make writing fun, that handwriting is an important skill for young learners! That is why I am including this blog too on 15 Handwriting Activities for Students! As teachers, we are always searching for new handwriting activities to make instruction fun and engaging for students. Using a Handwriting Packet provides a consistent set of printables that can be used throughout the year to practice letter formation and build fine motor strength.
I know in my classroom, I am lucky enough to hear those groans and moans early on change to cheers when I say the word “writing”. Which writing activity is your favorite and that you think would be beneficial for your students? Do you have any interesting and engaging activities that promote writing within your classrooms? Be sure to reach out and comment below to add to this list! Together we can make writing less “boring”, less stressful, and provide a skill of story-telling to our students!
Written By: Christopher Olson
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