Managing 20-something students as they all want your attention can be frustrating. Below, I’m going to share some tips for a successful writing block time to help keep your students engaged and learning.
During our writing time, I like to turn on some soft music. It’s loud enough to drown out 20 kids sounding out words but low enough that it’s not distracting. There are studies that say listening to music helps stimulate the brain and helps you remember a lot better. Whether it is true or not, it does wonders during writing time. This is the only time I play music while we are working. It’s peaceful and I truly believe it helps to keep my students on task.
Writing in one spot
My students are spread out around the room in their writing spots. As they write, I go around and just observe what they are working on. If anyone has a question or needs help, they raise their hand. At the beginning of the school year, when I introduce our writing time, we learn one very important rule. Do not leave your writing spot. Of course, it’s an emergency like needing a piece of tissue, they are allowed to get up. My student have everything that they need with them in their writing spot.
If a child raises their hand, I quietly walk over to them. I look to see what they’ve done so far and then ask what do they need help with. As I’m working with one student, if another child raises their hand, I go ahead and acknowledge letting them know that they can put their hand down and I will come to them next. This helps to cut down on the noise and distractions by calling my name. Also, I’m the only person moving around the classroom, so my students usually just ignore what I’m doing and work on their writing.
Writing Materials Together
Something else that I teach my students at the beginning of the year is to get all the materials that they need. We do this in every part of our day, but especially during writing. They have a very limited amount of time to write and I want the majority of our writing time to be spent on writing. Before they go to their writing spots, my students grab all of their materials. This is their writing folder, paper, pencil, and crayons. Sometimes, they may grab an eraser or a spacer if needed.
This also helps on making sure they are engaged and working the entire time because there is no reason for them to be getting up, wasting time, and looking for materials. One thing that I do let them do is go to our portable word wall. If they need to spell a word that they think we have, they can go over and grab a ring. We have thematic words, student names, and sight words on these rings. Once they finish with a ring, they take it back.
Writing Word Wall
Our portable word wall is another tip that I have to make the writing time successful. There is always that “how do you spell” look on kids’ faces or they just flat out ask. I don’t spell anything for my students. I always answer with, “Just write the sounds that you hear.” This helps them gain confidence because as you know a lot of the spellings make zero sense. If what they wrote was inventive spelling and then I tell them the correct way to spell it, they will never want to spell anything on their own again. You can grab these word wall letters here.
This is why we incorporate our word wall. Our sight words have to be spelled correctly since they are something that we are working on. Other words that aren’t sight words can be sounded out. Friend’s names with their pictures are on our rings as well. This helps them to spell their friend’s names without whispering across the room or getting up and asking that friend how to spell their name. This saves so much time and helps to keep them engaged in writing.
I added command hooks under each of the kids and added the word rings to the hooks. They remember where the rings go by looking at the first letter on the card. This is an extremely low maintenance part of our writing that has a huge impact on my students. Want the free kids for your word wall? You can get them sent straight to your email here. Just be sure to add your personal email, so it doesn’t go to your school’s spam folder.
Create a Share Day
Of course, students will want to share their writing. Once my students have finished a piece of writing, they put it in the back of their writing folder. They don’t immediately get to share it though. I create a sharing schedule where we have about 5 minutes to share. The students that are on Monday can share any of their writing that is finished. If they do not want to share, they do not have to, but will have to wait for their share day to come back around before they get to share anything. So, how do I encourage them to want to share? A wireless microphone is brought into the picture. They get to talk into the microphone as they read their writing. This helps those that talk so softly you can barely hear anything that they say.
The last tip that I have is to have a place for students to house all of their writing. If they just stuff it in their desk or stuff it wherever they put their supplies, they won’t cherish their writing. We have a special place for their writing folders. They do not get to keep these folders in their things because I want to make sure they take care of their writing. You can read more about using these folders here.
All of my students have one of these writing folders. It’s two folders taped together so it makes four pockets. I add a lot of the information that they may require when sounding out and spelling words. You can read more about the writing folder here.
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