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I have to give credit to one of my fellow teachers (Ms. Vucin) for this idea. She uses this as an "I'm done! What now?" activity, but you can use it for a writing idea as well. It's a great way to promote creativity!

Take a white piece of paper and draw a large squiggle on it. Photo copy it, and place it out for the kids to use. They twist and turn it anyway they need to, to visualize what that squiggle can become. It can become a snake or part of a river, or an alien- they need to be creative. Then, they write a story to go along with their picture!

I didn't realize how good this activity was until I actually did it with my kids. Their ending products were so creative, I couldn't have imagined some of the things they came up with! They were also very motivated to write the stories since they had come up with such an imaginative picture to start their project!

Color Coded Editing Checklist
I'm sure that every teacher has their version of a "Writers Checklist". And I'm sure that every teacher has students who "say" that they've checked everything over using the checklist, yet there are a million silly mistakes that say otherwise. Am I right? Well, my checklist may solve this problem! Each category in my checklist has been assigned a color. (Capitalization is orange, punctuation is blue, etc...) Not only do students need to check their list off as they proofread their work, but they also must underline (in the assigned color) at least three examples of when they've either made corrections in that category, or when they've shown usage of those writing rules correctly. So, if they see a word that needs to be capitalized, they'll correct it, and then underline it in orange. And if they see that they're missing a period, they'll add it, and then underline it in blue. This way, I can SEE that they understand each category concept, and it forces them to really take the time to use their checklist.

I get these lists laminated in the beginning of the year (Office Max has free laminating in August for teachers!!!) and then punch three holes in the side, so that these checklists can be kept in their binders all year long. Laminating them allows for them to use expo markers to actually check it off, and then erase it when they're finished, so it lasts for the whole school year!

Download a copy of my editing checklist here!

Gifts of Writing

Randomly, I will give my students a "Gift of Writing" which is a little educational and motivational quote that they can place into their Life Books. I have them write a paragraph analyzing the quote and what it means to them, and then we share our responses. Some teachers give a Gift of Writing after students finish a long-term writing assignment. I found a terrific website that has mini-posters with motivational quotes written on them. What I do is, I copy the poster and shrink it to a 3x5 size in a Word document, and then make enough for everyone. It's nice for the kids b/c there is a picture that goes along with the words and we all know how much kids like pictures! Click below to see the site I use.

Gift of Writing- Free Educational Posters

Ms. Nelson is Missing Writing Unit

I start out the school year as many teachers do, reading the book Ms. Nelson is Missing. This is how I start my writing unit of the school year, by giving my students a variety of writing genres all based on this book. Often times, I don't have time to get into all of these writings that I will list below, and you can pick and choose what is right for your students as well.

*  Narrative:
Students will write their personal account of either a nice teacher they had, a mean teacher they had, or an experience with a substitute teacher, either good or bad.

*  Descriptive Writing:
Have your students describe both Ms. Nelson and Ms. Swamp as descriptively as they can, even using a thesaurus to teach them the most colorful words they can find. Then, have them write two paragraphs for each character in the story; the first paragraph being only physical description, and the second paragraph being personality traits.

*  Comparison Writing:
Using the descriptive brainstorm that they just created in the last lesson, students will fill out a Venn Diagram, comparing Ms. Nelson to Ms. Swamp. Then, they will write two paragraphs. The first, being how the two characters are similar, and the second being how they are different.

*  Persuasive: "Come back Ms. Nelson!"
Students will write a persuasive letter to Ms. Swamp, begging her to come back!

*  Debate:
"Mean teachers get more teaching done than nice teachers." Agree or disagree?

*  Poetry: "Ode to Ms. Nelson"
"The students in Ms. Nelson's class didn't realize how nice it is to have a teacher like Ms. Nelson until she is gone and replaced by Viola Swamp. Think of a time that you didn't realize how good something or someone was until it was gone." Jot down some notes, and then write an "ode" to pay tribute to that someone or something you wish you had appreciated while you still could. Your poem can rhyme or not. Often odes are very dramatic, full of phrases like "Oh, wonderful Ms. Nelson!" Give a dramatic reading of your odes in front of the class.

*  Expository: "How to be a good student"
Expository writings explain things step by step. Explain "How to be a good student", and give the steps a person should take in order to make that happen.

*  Creative: "Becoming Your Opposite"
In the book, Ms. Nelson is Missing, a teacher must become a person very different from herself in order to get her class' attention. Create a character that is the opposite (or very different) from the real you. Make a list of your personality traits (shy, loud, nice, funny, etc...) and then write a second list of the opposites. Give your opposite a name. Have the class interview themselves as their "opposite personality". Be sure to answer questions like your NEW self! Example questions may be "What is the most important thing in life for you?", "What makes you happy/sad/angry/laugh?", or "What are you afraid of or worried about?"

Then, write or illustrate a diary entry about a good day or bad day in the life of your opposite. How are you alike? What advise would you give your opposite? Would he/she take it?

To see some examples from my past classes, click here.


In October, I like to use
"Nounster" as my writing project. Since it's not my original idea, I will just like you to the rightful owner's page!

I Am Thankful For My School

In November, we write thank you letters to every employee of our school, from custodians, to lunch aids, to the secretaries. I put this idea on my Holiday Ideas page, so click
here to read more!

Invent a Holiday

In December/January, around the holidays, I give the students the opportunity to invent their own holidays! Here is where I use the 5 Ws graphic organizer, and they brainstorm all the details about their make believe holiday. This project is meant to be creative. I tell the kids that I'm not looking for generic ideas such as "Reading Day...a day to read"- I'm looking for creative ideas such as "Day of Dance....a day where everyone meets in the town park, and the park is divided up into several areas where there are teachers teaching all the different genres of dance such as ballroom, latin, hip-hop, ballet, lyrical, tap, etc... There are dance recitals held in the town hall, and parades with dancers dancing in the streets. Music can be heard throughout the town, and everyone is having a blast." See what I mean? Be creative!



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