April 22, 2018

8 Ways to Promote Independence in Writing in the Primary Grades

I don't know about you and yours, but my students this year have had a difficult time writing independently. Yes, even this late into the school year (it's April!) and even with writing on daily basis, this year's group of kiddos has struggled with writing on their own. The environment is a bit different for me this year as I teach a Gen Ed and ESE inclusion class (second grade) with students ranging in ability level from Pre-K to 3rd grade. With that wide of a range, no wonder I have resistant writers.

So how can we as teachers help these students with independent writing? Although my students have struggled, they have come a long way since the start of the year. Here's what I have found to be successful, even when my students want to give up.

Every. Single. Day. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is hard to implement with the tight schedules we are faced with. I squeeze in journal writing in the 20 minutes I have between PE and Lunch. Students are given a topic to write about and they write independently for that time. I usually put on some quiet music to keep students from talking loudly. During this time, I allow students to ask their shoulder partner for assistance in spelling or to help check their writing. This took a lot of time to teach the procedure early in the year, but it has helped tremendously with my lower students.

Every writing unit we do begins with an anchor chart. Start your mini-lessons or writing time off by reviewing what is on the anchor charts you've already created together. For those struggling, draw pictures for guidance. A lot of words may intimidate those reluctant students. Check out Pinterest! There are SO MANY anchor charts!!! Here's a link to some Pinterest ones I like:

There are several ways to "collect" or "keep" writing material. You can go the pocket folder route or even the binder route. I also dabbled in lapbooks this year and my class really loved making them! Creating their "Fact-Folio" for informational writing really added to their sense of accomplishment when at the end of the unit, we had a LOT of items inside! Adding in that element of interaction with their research and planning makes the writing a lot more fun. You could do this with narrative writing as well. Click the pictures below to see a narrative writing lapbook that has just been added to my TpT store.

Providing students with a checklist will help them go to the next step on their own.

We use the Collection Pocket for graphic organizers, illustrations, and rough drafts. It is so nice to have everything together.

When you give a topic to write about, brainstorm with your students some words they may want to use and write them on the board or chart paper. Recently, my students wrote in their journals about immigration and how they thing immigrants may have felt when they finally arrived at Ellis Island. My students this year tend to get hung up on spelling and won't move on until they feel it is spelled right. Anyone else experience this?! I look up from the one student I am assisting and 14 more hands are up. That makes the 20 minutes fly by and only a few students helped. By making a mini word wall with words that make sense for that topic, students can refer to it as they write and keep going! Our immigration mini word wall included words like "immigrant," "Statue of Liberty," "countries," and "relieved." These words were thought up by my students, so there was a level of collaboration and students were able to form ideas for their journal entry by listening to word suggestions from their peers as well as spell these large words without getting stuck. I include word wall cards and headers in every Vocabulary Activities Set in the series (which is always growing!), so if you have a specific topic and need the materials, click the images below.

ALSO AVAILABLE: Weather, Life Cycles, States of Matter, Rocks and Soil, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

This is a big one. Sometimes students don't understand the rubrics we lay out. And they definitely won't understand if we don't TELL them what they are. What are your expectations? Do they know what they're expected to do? Do they know if you care about grammar and punctuation or do you only care about the content? Primary students may not know to ask these questions. Creating a visual rubric gives students the opportunity to self-check and keep on track even without your assistance. You can make these rubrics for literally anything. Here's one I made for staying on task! Adding in those colored levels gives you and your students an opportunity to reflect. I often ask my students, "What color would you say you are on this chart?"

Do you have an author's day? Or an author's chair? Students love to share what they've accomplished, especially if you have build a strong community within your classroom. For some units, I've had short pieces read by every student in the room in one day, or for larger scale writing, we have split it up for students to share a few at a time across a week. I know we all love to post student work on bulletin boards, but writing is one of those things that students LOVE to see posted, especially if they've published it in an attractive way.

Check out these super creative author's chair/celebrations I found on Pinterest! Don't forget to follow!

Make that final draft a work of art. There are hundreds of ways to jazz up the final product that will give students the excitement of finishing this laborious task. Add in toppers for them to color or decorate and simply tack them onto construction paper. Use colored pencils or pens to carefully write the finished product. You'd be surprised at how they take their time doing this! And if you're really looking for a beautiful finished product, spend some time allowing students to type their final draft! In the primary grades, this does take a while, but having it as a computer center is one way you can try to fit it in.

Was this post helpful? Check out these other great ideas to implement in your classroom today!
Seven Ways to Use Fairy Tales in the Classroom
Clever Center/Task Card Storage
Using a Hundreds Chart to Promote Mental Math
The Human Body Unit

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