Language Arts

Two Writing Ideas

Writing with cartoon blocks

Teaching writing is my comfortable place.  I enjoy writing myself so it comes easy for me. Although I’m comfortable with it, I still regularly research new ideas and platforms to present writing in creative ways.  The above picture shows my then 2nd grader writing a fable using stamps.  I have used this technique when I’ve had reluctant writers to help them get over their writing hurdle. This writing assignment would come on the heels of fable reading, like Aesops or Fables by Arnold Lobel. First, we get the stamps and ink out. Then, I gather a theme of stamps, like say animals or in this case, farm animals. Then, I ask my child to think of a message or moral. “What was that lesson we learned yesterday in ‘The Tortoise and the Hare?'”  Then we talk about how the Fables author uses animals to teach us lessons about life.  That little discussion is all we need to start the creative juices flowing and then a moral is chosen along with the animals who will teach it.  This is always a fun writing activity. Plus, there is a little editing and spelling involved so a lot of learning occurs.

The Writer’s Notebook


This picture is from a page in my writer’s notebook.  When my kids are working in their writer’s notebook, I totally set everything aside and write in my notebook too.

A writer’s notebook is not to be confused with a journal.  Journals are used for response writing, like ‘What is your favorite color and why?’  The writer’s notebook is different. It is pure creativity that is both a catalog of writing starting points and actual pieces in progress.  For example, the picture above shows a poem I’m working on.  But, the next page may have five of my favorite first novel lines.  Another page may have three incredible sentences that I want to model.

Here is a list of things you might see in our writer’s notebooks:

  • lists of all kinds
  • a snippet of a conversation
  • comics
  • cool words to be used in a piece of writing
  • photo journaling – a picture pasted in, with a description or as a starting point
  • stories of all kinds
  • poetry
  • character sketch
  • plot & setting ideas
  • discussions
  • a comparison of two things
  • dialogue
  • notes for a future piece of writing
  • sketches for a future piece of writing
  • memories
  • writers notebook page

There is one important rule about the writers notebook that makes it really work.  No judging or editing!  The pressure is off!  When I present unconditional writing opportunities for my students through the notebook, it releases them from the responsibility of having to spell and punctuate and enables them to open their minds to ideas and get them on paper.  As you can see from my 8 year old’s page above, there are many spelling and punctuation errors.  But, there is a cool idea coming forth, that the white house dog is somehow a thief and is wanted in 3 states!  There are adjectives too. There is two-vowel phonetic spelling going on.  All this from a child who literally rolls over and dies if asked to write a single sentence in his grammar book.

If a piece is particularly liked, we will pull it from the notebook and go through the editing process to revise and publish. This is how I write, and I offer this approach to my kids as well.  Whatever we’re doing has served them well as we now have two English majors in the family!