Teaching writing can be a bit of a head-scratcher. How do you take a process that happens mostly in your head and guide your students through it? Luckily, there are some ways to guide your students through the process (and it doesn’t involve banging your head against the wall)! Here are five tips for teaching writing for elementary students.
Tip #1: Reference Resources
There is a reason meetings keep minutes and spouses constantly say, “Don’t forget…” As adults, we often forget the things we’ve said – or even things we’ve done (my misplaced keys can vouch for that). The same goes for teaching writing to elementary students.
When we teach writing strategies, we need a way to compile the information and put it in a place that students can find it later. There is so much that goes into writing: grammar, syntax, organization, diction, and so on. We can’t expect our students to know it all, especially after a lesson or two.
Have students create a reference guide. This might be an interactive notebook or printed reference pages. Personally, I use a Writing Flipbook. I print out the pages for students, and they add it to a binder ring. I encourage them to pull it out and use it – no permission needed!
Tip #2: Anchor Charts
This goes hand in hand with reference resources. You know what makes the best classroom decor? Anchor charts. I’m being totally serious! Not only can they cover every blemish of your aging classroom walls (ha!), but they can also make your room a helpful and useful place for students.
Now, it would be nearly impossible to display anchor charts for every piece of information students learn. So, here are a few ideas to make use of your wall space when teaching writing for elementary students.
One option is rotating your anchor charts. For example, pull out your sentence stems for body paragraphs on days when students will need it. Change it out for editing rules the next day. This option requires lots of storage for your charts, the willingness to change them often, and displaying your charts in a way you can change them easily.
Another option is to permanently (or at least for longer periods of time) display certain anchor charts. You might choose big topics (writing thesis statements, body paragraphs, editing rules, and more), and keep them up year round. This option requires more wall space.
Tip #3: Provide Sentence Stems
If you’ve ever had students say, “But I don’t know what to say!” then this tip is for you. Which means…this tip is probably for everyone teaching writing to elementary students! Sometimes our students have an idea, but they really struggle to put it into words. Sometimes you’ll offer an example, and students rush to write it down. They never got a chance to figure it out on their own!
That’s where sentence stems and sentence starters will help. I recommend having a list of sentence stems and starters for each of the paragraph types: introduction, body, and conclusion. Of course, you can also get more detailed with it, like a thesis statement starter or evidence sentence.
I include my sentence starters in my students’ Writing Flipbook, which I mentioned earlier is their reference resource. You can get this entire Writing Boot Camp Flipbook, along with Writing Boot Camp centers for practice, in this Writing Boot Camp Bundle.
The flipbook includes writing tips and checklists for opinion and informative writing. It also includes helpful grammar tips, organizational structures, word lists, sentence stems, and more. This Boot Camp is more than a test prep tool, it’s a reference resource your students can use all year long to write effectively.
The centers are a great review for test prep or a mid-year review. It contains activities for writing prompts, figurative language, punctuation, homophones, and writing strong sentences.
Tip #4: Use Engaging Topics to Practice
They say practice makes perfect, and when it comes to writing, I couldn’t agree more. While we aren’t aiming for perfection, each time your students practice writing, they will be applying new knowledge and skills. So, it gets better every time.
Of course, with so much practice, things can get boring when teaching writing to elementary students. If you’re like me, and you enjoy a structured writing routine, then you need a way to keep writing interesting. I like to use various engaging writing topics and prompts to do so.
One way to bring in engaging topics is by using popular trends. Every year, there always seems to be something students are obsessed with. Whether it’s Fortnite, Minecraft, TikTok, or something of the like. Of course, we want to keep the topics student-friendly, but you can still find a way to weave in trends. For example, give students the writing prompt, “Should elementary students be allowed to use TikTok / play Minecraft?”
Another way I keep things interesting is with text based writing prompts. These writing prompts require that students read a paired passage, and then respond to it. I like these because it gives students something concrete to write about, and it can help them generate ideas. It’s perfect for students who struggle with writing or are still mastering the writing process.
Check out some of the topics I use with students –
I hope these tips help you make the most of your writing block. If there is one big takeaway here, it’s that there are a lot of rules that go into writing. Make it easy for students with anchor charts or reference guides. You will see a lot more success when students have a place to refer to. Check out my other blog 5 Tips to Easily Teach Writing in an Upper Elementary Classroom for more tips.
Want more writing resources? Check out all of my writing resources here! I have resources to help you plan, implement, and make the most of your writing routine.