At the beginning of the school year, most students can easily write a couple of paragraphs about their summer vacation, a previous accomplishment, or what they hope to accomplish this school year. This is a piece of cake for the students! Then the real writing assignments begins. Many teachers ask themselves, "Where do I start?"
Scaffolding and modeling is the answer when you teach writing. It's crucial to take baby steps. It’s overwhelming for students to see a rubric that has the end of the year expectations given to them at the beginning of the year. It's essential to pick up where they left off last school year and slowly incorporate the new grade level's requirements. It's also important not to expect your students to do everything in a writing assignment all at once. If you hand back a writing assignment all marked up, it can stifle creativity.
First, have your students fill out a graphic organizer to organize their thoughts. As the year progresses, some students may not need a graphic organizer; you can let them do the strategy that works best for them. Nevertheless, be sure to be consistent with your expectations in your classroom.
Don’t pile everything on them all at once. You should be adding one or two additional requirements each time a new essay is introduced. Once you introduce a concept, students should be held accountable for the concepts you taught. If it appears that the majority of the class does not understand the concept, do not hold them accountable and then reteach the concept. When you present a new requirement for the essay, choose interesting and relatable topics for your students. Then there are times you may need to take a step back and choose a topic that may not be as interesting. Make sure you do not introduce new requirements during that essay. This prepares the students to write about topics that they are not interested in. Students must learn how to do that.
Increase the length of the essays little by little. Don't expect your students to write a five paragraph essay at the beginning of the school year. By shortening the length of the essay, it will allow students to focus on the quality of their writing. I've used the phrase "quality over quantity" throughout my writing workshops. This will be beneficial to your students' writing skills later on in the school year.
You will see that some students will need to start at a different level because they didn't meet last year's writing requirements. These students may need a different rubric than the majority of your students. Differentiation is needed in all subjects to meet the needs of your students.
When you introduce the topic, it's important to brainstorm together. Many students find it difficult to come up with ideas. For informational writing, you should give your students research time to gather the facts. For argumentative, opinion, and persuasive writing, you may not need the research time and can go right into brainstorming. This should be an ongoing strategy when introducing a new writing topic until a few writing prompts before the end of year assessment (if your state requires one).
As I grade the essays in the beginning, I try not to focus too much on conventions. I use those as extra points that the students can earn to give incentive for using proper punctuation and grammar. I have found that if you focus too much on spelling or capitalization, this also stifles students' creativity. My focus is what my students are writing.
It's important for students to fill out a self-assessment/evaluation. Students need to be taught how to fill out a self assessment correctly. Self-assessments are to let students know what is expected of them and it gives them the opportunity to reflect on their work.
Lastly, always make sure you conference with your student! I know it's hard to fit in the time, but it pays off down the road. Most students do not look at their graded papers when they get them back. It's important that you take the time to review with each student what they need to improve on and at least one thing that you liked about their paper.
Writing Tips Recap:
1. Choose interesting and relatable topics when introducing new requirements.
2. Always brainstorm together.
3. Give your students a graphic organizer to organize their thoughts.
4. Scaffold and model the requirements to your students.
5. Increase the length of the essay slowly.
6. Have the students fill out a self assessment.
7. Focus on what they are writing, rather than conventions.
8. Conference with your students on each paper.
It’s easy to differentiate for each student with my Common Core aligned rubrics. There are Opinion, Persuasive, Argumentative, 3-5 Informational, and 6-12 Informational rubrics that grow with students as they progress in their writing skills.
Click here for writing rubrics with student self-assessments created for the progressing writer. Excellent for mixed or leveled classes to give students individualized instruction.
For more ideas to try on in October, visit some of these great Teacher Talk bloggers!
Classroom management must be under control before learning can take place. You can have the best idea for a lesson, but without successful classroom management, it will more than likely flop. A well-managed classroom is more productive and will keep you from getting frazzled later on in the school year.
During the first few weeks of school, you are teaching your students your expectations. A great way to teach procedures is through modeling. Make sure you are implementing positive expectations to set the tone of your classroom. It’s imperative that there is consistency with everything from your routines to praises so that students know what is expected of them. You want the procedures and expectations to become predictable. This will promote a comfortable and productive learning environment for your students.
A behavior clip chart is a fantastic way to positively promote and manage student behavior in the classroom. The behavior chart can be used to help you reinforce positive behavior with your students. When a student goes above and beyond in their behavior choices, they should be moved up. Be sure to use specific compliments when moving a student up the clip chart. You’ll want to talk in a firm, but calm voice and with a smile. There’s no need to whisper when pointing out excellent behavior; make sure the other students hear you. When the class sees the positive reinforcement for other students, it helps many students make better choices. When you clip down a student, you do not have to speak loudly or shout. I quietly tell a student to clip down. I use body language as a way to let students know if they are on the right track to be clipped back up or if I want to give a warning. A simple nod or raise of the eyebrows will do wonders.
Sometimes inefficient classroom management causes confusion which can trigger bad behavior. If the circumstance allows, I will ignore the bad behavior and only bring attention to the positive behavior in my classroom. However, some students may need to be moved down. There are other times when a student needs an individual behavior tracker. You’ll want a tracker that has the student set behavior or task goals each day. Rather than focusing on the bad behavior, focus on no more than 5 things the student can do to improve. I recommend meeting with the school counselor and/or parents to be involved when implementing a behavior tracker. They may have additional ideas and you will want parents to be on board with a tracker.
The behavior calendar provides daily behavior documentation and opens communication with parents. I have my students color in the behavior earned for the day in the square at the end of the day. Award certificates or bracelets are great ways to encourage students to keep making good choices. Since this goes home, it can reinforcement the positivity in your classroom from parents.
Overall, you will not want to waste any time in your classroom during the school year. By using these strategies, it will help you in the long term.
Included in this resource:
✓How I Use This Resource
✓Thanksgiving Writing Prompts
✓“I am Thankful for YOU” Writing Ideas
✓“I am Thankful for YOU” Notes
✓“I am Thankful for YOU” Cover
✓Graphics and Fonts Credit
*Great for mixed or leveled classes to give students individualized instruction.
Details: 23.48 MB PDF file - 12 page(s)
In writing, I scaffold and model information to my students. Each class is different and each year is different; therefore, I can't do everything the same each time I teach the same subject.
I assign the writing prompt the week of Thanksgiving. You can choose how many paragraphs the essay should be.
I start the Thankful Notes in early to mid November. I assign one student for the class to write about. I usually choose a transition time such as morning work or after lunch/recess. For the student whose name is on the board, have them decorate/write on their cover page (I am valued or treasured). It gets them thinking about why they are special. Or if that does not work for your class, have them write their name then draw on the cover page. You have the choice of 2 cover pages. You may want to print off the prompts and write the current student’s name on the board as you work through the class. Each student takes home a booklet once all students have been written about. I take the time to fill one out as well. You will need a heavy duty stapler. The other option for the Thankful Notes would be to have students fill them out for their family.
Make sure the kiddos go home with the Thankful Essay and Thankful Notes before the break!
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