The key to getting kids engaged with writing exercises is to either give them some control in the exercise or to challenge them to a task. Furthermore, kids in first and second grade are learning both how to command language and utilize the various steps of the writing process to produce coherent, supported opinions, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. By infusing lessons with creative, task-oriented prompts, you can make these lessons exciting.
Free writing is probably the most basic writing exercise, yet it can be one of the most fun and rewarding. Tell your kids that they are going to write for three minutes straight. They can write about whatever they want -- they can tell stories, write shopping lists or go from one idea to the next without stopping to explain. The only rule is that they must continue writing no matter what, even if they can't think of anything to write -- they can even begin with "I don't know what to write." After they've finished, ask for volunteers to share their writing. Then, allow the group to comment on each others' work.
The kids are now all workers in your story factory. You give them instructions, and then they each have two minutes to write a complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Then, you will give them a new set of instructions, and they will have another two minutes to write a story. For example, your first instruction could be, "Write how a silly superhero saves the day." The second prompt could be different, such as, "You must begin with 'You're not going to believe this.'" After they're finished, have them pair up and read each others' work. They can then help each other make their stories more interesting and finish those that are incomplete.
Tell the kids they will be writing about what makes a friend a best friend. Have them use one side of the paper to make a list of all the qualities that make a friend a best friend, such as loyalty and kindness, and then they can use the other side of the paper to write a paragraph about the subject. Afterward, have students read their work aloud and write on the chalkboard all of the qualities they use. This exercise will help familiarize them with the writing process -- specifically pre-writing -- and help them to specifically identify the qualities they value in a friend.
Explain to the kids that they are going to write lines of dialogue. Have them imagine that they're on an elevator with one other person. This other person can be anyone they choose, as long as they either know the person or are familiar with them. For example, a boy could imagine himself with a favorite television character. Also, encourage the kids to choose somebody they feel strongly about -- either they really like them or strongly dislike them. Once they've chosen a person, have the kids imagine the elevator stopping suddenly and getting stuck. Then, have each student write the conversation they'd have with their person in the stuck elevator. Encourage them not to over-think it and to have fun. After a few minutes, ask volunteers to read their conversations.
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