I’ve had this question a few times: How do you get your students to write? I am going to try and answer this question in a blog post. Here’s the thing about writing: students will do it when they are ready, it takes a lot of patience sometimes, and every child is different. This is important to remember: students come to school with different interests, skills, knowledge, and they all learn in different ways. So if one way is not working, try a different way or just give them some time- they will write when they are ready (and they will shock you when they begin!)
I am going to give you a few ideas that we do in our classroom to encourage our students to become writers:
We complete all of our morning messages, charts, and bulletin boards with our students. They get to see that words have meaning, and they get to see that their words are important. Model different strategies while writing with them:
- first letter sound (“sssschool, what letter does school start with?”)
- sight words (“‘you’ is a sight word that we know, how do we write that?”)
- stretching out simple words (“car- I hear three sounds, C-A-R, what letters are those?”)
This way students can hear and see the different writing strategies at work, and they will know how to use them when they begin to write.
We don’t begin with writing sentences. Most of our students don’t even know what a sentence is. Instead, we begin by labeling simple pictures (of course we model how to do this with them). Students first draw their picture, then we encourage them to try and label 3 things on it. They can try to stretch out the whole word, or put the beginning sound that they hear and put a ‘magic line’ under it so that a teacher can help write the rest of the word. This is a great way for them to start to see themselves as writers, without putting too much pressure on them to write whole sentences.
You can get this simple labeling template in my Resource Library as a free download!
Your students have to start writing somewhere. They can write the beginning sounds of words, or write sight words that they know. They may be able to copy words or a sentence that you write for them (I keep some sticky notes with at our writing center for this purpose). This is when a guided writing table is important. Our tables have 6 seats. I put two students by my side, and the last 3 chairs are left for students that can write independently. I can guide and help the students next to me, while still answering any questions from the other students at the table.
I start by asking them what they want to write, then they can draw a picture. Once they are ready, we write the sentence together. I guide them through beginning sounds, sight words or stretching out words. I have found that helping them through the beginner writing stage gives them the confidence to start writing on their own.
If there is an activity that we want a student to complete by writing in whole words, we can write what they tell us with a yellow marker. That way, they can trace over the letter with a pencil, and begin their writing journey. They love doing this, and you can even get them to write the first letter of the word, and then complete the rest with the yellow marker.
We love making class books with our students. We make them all the time, then put them in our classroom library so that they can read them. Our students are always really excited when they can make a contribution to our books. This way, our students see themselves as authors and they want to write. So find something that they are excited to write about, get them to want to write!
I have a set of 40 class books in my store if you would like to try them with your class. You can find them here:
Those are some of the tricks I have used while teaching our kindergartners to write. What are your favorite ways to get your students to begin writing? Let me know in the comments!