ABC and 123: Tips for Teaching Writing

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tips for Teaching Writing

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There are so many different pieces to the puzzle of learning to write. Often as parents we focus on the logistics of letter formation and printing, however there is much to be learned about creativity, sentence formation, grammar, story structure, character development, writing to demonstrate understanding and so much more. This post features a variety of tips and activities that have been submitted.

Alicia, at Discoveries of a Teacher, writes about the steps she uses in her classroom to teach the writing process.

Nurture Store has submitted the following link for a child-led, nature inspired way to begin writing letters. This post focuses on letter formation and shows C is for Caterpillar.

Layers of Learning has shared an informative post on the basics of a Writers Workshop.

Katie, at A List Maker's Life, has a post explaing the step by step instructions for using Cut Up Sentences to help young children start to put their ideas into words. This is an early journaling activity.

Teaching Two explains the process of interactive journaling as a method for developing quality writing skills. In this post, there is also a link to anothe post explaining a Morning Message.

Quirky Momma uses playdough, gel packs, sticky sticks and a mini-whiteboard to practice writing skills.
Becca Burda sent us the following useful suggestions in an email:

~I used Writer’s Workshop and Reader’s Workshop with my Kindergarteners and First graders throughout my teaching. There is a wonderful book called “Reading with Meaning” By Debbie Miller that integrates both reading and writing activities. I love this book because she gives examples of differentiated lessons, activities, and books to use with young children. She goes into detail about each lesson’s objective. Every time I read through one of her lessons the wheels in my head would start turning and it always got my “creative juices” flowing! It’s a FANTASTIC book!!

~I love the “Fancy Nancy” books and I found that my first graders did to…even the boys!! I used these books to help develop good word choice in our writings. I created two puppets for our classroom. They weren’t fancy puppets by any means, but the kids loved them. I used two brown paper lunch bags to create a girl puppet named “Fancy Nancy” and a boy puppet named “Larry Very Ordinary.” I attached a piece of paper to the end of each bag (receipt paper rolls work well). We would write ordinary words on the paper underneath Larry and then write better word choice or “fancy words” on the paper underneath Nancy. The kids took off with this…I couldn’t believe it! They were soon asking to use a thesaurus! I went out and bought several age appropriate thesauruses and created several mini-lessons on how to use one. Keep in mind, I did not introduce the thesaurus until mid-year after the kids were familiar with and comfortable with “ABC” order. Even children who were having difficulty with their writing would choose better “fancy” words from the thesaurus. Many times, I would be busy working with students on their writing and I would look over to see my advanced writers helping other students with their writings! My first graders came up with a goal of stretching the paper 200 words long…they said they wanted it to reach across the room. By the end of the year, we had well over 200 words! J This activity can be used to teach writing skills, vocabulary skills, reading skills, comprehension skills, book skills, cooperative learning, etc. AND it created excitement in learning!

Thanks Becca & all of you who also submitted your great writing links!
If you are looking for more great links, perhaps you'd like to check out the link list from last year's Picnic Table Talk on writing activities and inspiration!


  1. When I was teaching 2nd grade we used our thesauruses for just about every kind of writing. One day we were making Thanksgiving cards and one little boy decided to use the thesaurus. He wanted to use a "fancier" word that "good." His card read, "Dear Mama and Daddy, I hope you have a "benevolent" Thanksgiving." It makes me giggle to this day and his parents loved it!

  2. For those of you that go and read the cut up sentence idea that is linked here, here is another idea for using cut up sentences with older children. One year I would have my 2nd graders write a complete sentence on a sentence strip on Monday. Then they would cut it up into individual words. We would then use the words for a variety of activities such as: putting the words of your sentence in ABC order, finding the verbs, finding the adjectives, common and proper nouns, pronouns, etc. We'd even do this in groups where the group had to sort the words from everyone's sentence at the table into adjectives or create a new sentence using the words from each others' sentences. They especially loved the last one because sometimes the sentences would be hilarious. We'd sometimes use our sentences in graphing activities to graph how many 'B' words there were or how many proper nouns, etc. Sometimes they would even include sentences about whatever we were learning in science or social studies. At the end of the week, they had to be able to write the sentence in their journal without looking at the cut up sentence in the zip-loc bag. I would then have them write a story using the theme from that sentence. They were usually short stories that were mostly for fun and not for grading or editing purposes. One last thing that turned out great from this was that when the students' would create group sentences from all the individual words they had to use a beginning from someone's sentence to start off the group sentence (because of the capital) and an ending from someone's sentence so there would be punctuation at the end of the sentence. In the beginning it was frustrating because they realized they all started the sentence with "I" and they wanted something different. It didn't take long for them to really start coming up with creative ways to start sentences! Sorry so long. Can you tell I love to teach? I don't teach school anymore (it's been 3 years), but I have 3 children that I have the privilege to teach!

  3. It has been fascinating to learn about the different methods that people have employed. I am starting our alphabet adventures with my soon to be four year old so I have read this post with great interest.

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    My Delicious Ambiguity

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