When I first started teaching writing, I was fumbling my way through it. I am not much of a writer myself, and I was at a loss on how to help students become great writers. Over the years, and many PD sessions later, I’ve landed on some proven strategies to build strong writers. And it all starts with my classroom writing routine.
When should I start a writing routine?
When it comes to creating a writing routine, I hear lots of stress and fear from teachers. I nod my head because it’s exactly what I used to think, too! From the very start of the year, my students begin writing essays.
Either you hear that and think I must be exaggerating, or you think my school is made up of writing prodigies! Well, neither of those things are true. Lots of teachers wait for their students to know it all and have perfected writing before they ask them to complete an essay.
I’m challenging you to do the opposite. Have your students write essays from the beginning – before they know it all. They won’t get it right, but as they learn and gain new skills, their essays get better and better. What a great way to look back and see all their progress!
Creating a Writing Routine
There are tons of writing routines out there, and it will look different depending on how much time you have and the students in your class. Your routine may also be dependent on certain curriculum or writing strategies you are implementing (such as writing workshop).
I have a five day routine that I stick with when my students are writing their essays. We follow the same routine each time we write an essay. By having a firm writing routine in place, my students get familiar with the process, need less instruction, and are able to be self-sufficient in their work.
Here is my classroom writing routine –
Students read the prompt and the passages. We use PAT (identify the purpose, audience, and the task) when breaking down the prompt. Then, students quickly draw out their planning sheet, which can be a graphic organizer.
Students will reread the prompt and begin filling in their planning sheet. Essentially, this is the brainstorming stage. Remind students not to focus on grammar or having all the “right” ideas here. They are just getting thoughts down on the page.
Students will reread the prompt. Then, they will begin to write their introduction and conclusion. I give my students a guide for writing these in their Writing Boot Camp booklet.
This is probably the hardest part for students – writing the body paragraphs! We spend our whole writing block just on this because it’s super important and will take the most time. Again, my students use the guides in the Writing Boot Camp to help with writing body paragraphs.
This is a catch up day for students. They can finish any element of their essay or go back and redo anything they want to. Then, at the end of class, we show off our essays. Have students pair up or chat with their table about their amazing essays.
If you aren’t sure where to start with writing prompts or writing topics, I suggest using text based writing prompts. I find that they are more exciting for students (and help them generate ideas) because they start by reading paired passages. Then, they write an essay on a related prompt. It’s super helpful for students who are just getting familiar with writing.
Now that students have a complete essay, the following week, I will take time to meet with each student during our writing block time. We will look over their writing together and create a goal for that week’s writing piece.
While you are meeting with students, the rest of the class is working their way back through the five day writing routine. Essentially, students are always writing something. To keep it from getting boring, I use lots of different text based writing prompts. Check out some of the topics I use with students –
These writing prompts come with two paired passages about the same topic, and then students answer a writing prompt related to the topic. I always get some really interesting (and passionate!) responses from students – especially when it comes to cell phones and social media.
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.
Want more tips for teaching writing? Check out this blog post for 5 Tips to Easily Teach Writing in an Upper Elementary Classroom.