Saturday, November 5, 2011

Literacy Centers- Writing

     Writing, for young children is a playful but purposeful activity.  Doing countless tracing worksheets will not teach a child to write and will probably discourage them from wanting to write.  Here is a site that explains this concept well.  Teaching writing should also be playful and purposeful.  If you are interested in learning more about the stages of writing look at this previous post.  Along with fun group lessons that help children learn to write letters, words, sentences, and stories, I use a writing center as a way to encourage writing, practice writing, and making writing purposeful.  I frequently visit this center to prompt new letter or word uses.  I try to encourage story writing, also.  This will help with reading skills.  If they can write their own story, they can read it back to you.

     In the writing center, children always have access to writing materials including paper, markers (are better for writing), crayons (come in more colors), stamps and ink, scissors, a stapler, and glue sticks.  I sometimes will add stickers or other writing materials.  I add one material each week to the center after we have talked about how to use them, like markers, glue sticks, and caps.  There are labels on everything.  I have used a shelf with baskets to hold materials or those little see through drawers.  It really doesn't matter how you store the materials as long as you have them available.  Last year I up graded my Writing center table to one of the bigger tables that would hold at least 4 people because it was so popular.  Even then, I still had kids pulling materials onto the nearby table and the kitchen area. 
     On the wall, I hang ABC posters for references.  I also hang up a ring of word cards that relate to the theme or month.  I bought a set of posters that had the month with a bunch of related words to cut out.  You can find some neat colored printable words here and here and here.

other additions
This is one of the tools I add to my writing center.  As we talk about each letter, I add this to the center. See my hands on alphabet post to find out what this is.

DIY stamps- stamps are great tools to add to your writing center.  They encourage counting and story telling.  You could use letter stamps also but I save those for my word work center.
Chalk boards are a fun addition to the center.  Directions for Making your own chalk boards

Here is a cute idea for how to make a pizza box into a wipe off board and chalkboard easel.  Did you know they make chalkboard contact paper? 

Here are some other cute ideas.

Neat idea with picture frames. And wipe of crayons are great.  I recently found them on clearance at Walmart for $1.50 a box.  No sticky markers, no staining, and nice colors

For older kids, you could add a writing prompt bag.  Use little toys, like the ones you get in happy meals, to give students something to write about. 

     No matter what you put into your writing center or how it looks, please remember,  this center is to encourage writing skills, not handwriting skills or grammar.  I would never put a worksheet to practice handwriting or have children practice sight words in this center.  Doing this will discourage those who don't have the greatest fine motor skills or those with a lack of interest in words from visiting the center.  If a child shows any interest in making something to take home, you can encourage them to visit the writing center.  A letter to Grandma, a card for Dad's birthday, an I miss you note to Mom, or even a picture to a sibling are all great opportunities to encourage writing.  As you show interest in their stories and pictures, they will keep asking to return to the center for more.  Phonics skills, handwriting skills, and language skills will increase as the child explores the materials.  Scaffolding writing skills is important in this center.  You can write what the child dictates, let the child write some letters they already know, or help the child spell on their own.  It is a way to encourage those children who have come to you with the higher level skills to increase their learning and self esteem.

                                   Here is an example of what can come from encouraging writing.

    This is a first grader who wrote a story and illustrated it to make a book for others to read.  Make sure to read the last page that explains why she wrote the book.
This girl will be graduating from high school this year.  I hope she will be attending college, maybe as a writer.

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