The key to getting second graders interested in creative writing is making it fun. Fortunately, second graders are still at an age where even the little things in life can be extraordinarily exciting. A special notebook, freedom to make choices and a chance to share their work can be motivating factors in teaching creative writing.
Comfortable Writing Spaces
Students spend a lot of time sitting at desks. Time and space restrictions in a classroom usually mean that some writing at desks is necessary, but kids get excited when they sit somewhere new or special. Set up a special writing table that your students get to use as a reward or on a rotation. Provide special erasers or fancy pencils to add interest. Lap desks are another option if you have a carpeted corner or floor pillows where writers can roost.
Have students dedicate one of their notebooks or folders to their writing. They will be able to keep all their writing in one place, but they also can keep track of ideas and graphic organizers to use in the future. Many kids love to draw pictures to illustrate their stories, but they often get caught up in the pictures and shortchange the writing. Establish short portions of their writing time to add pictures to their stories. You can even set a timer.
Organizers and Prompts
Set aside the first few pages of the journal for graphic organizers created during class. For example, students can divide a page into nine squares and give each space a category, such as "animals" or "vacations." Within a square, students jot down details they might want to share on that topic. If they later are struggling to come up with ideas, they can use one of these topics. They also can use writing prompts to tackle topics they wouldn't otherwise. To encourage creativity and independence, some prompts should be a free writing exercise, where they can write about anything. Students can use these tools to resolve writer's block instead of asking you for ideas.
Mini-Lessons and Conferences
Mini-lessons teach concepts and put them to use quickly. Second graders still are mastering basic writing skills, including grammar, punctuation and spelling, as well as parts of a story, such as character and setting. It's too much for one lesson, so tackle one thing at a time. Start with a few lessons on coming up with writing ideas. Address use of periods another day. Devote lessons to building characters or developing plot. As students write, hold brief, one-on-one conferences. This lets students know that you are interested in what they have to say and allows you meet them at their skill levels. One student might be struggling with complete sentences, while another child might have mastered sentences but needs help structuring paragraphs. Tailor your mini-conferences accordingly.
Sharing and Publication
Every piece of writing in the journal is not going to be perfect. Writing time should be just that -- editing can take place afterward. Students can share their stories with partners, who help them make improvements. Teacher conferences provide the chance to choose an area of focus for correction. For example, a student who habitually writes run-on sentences might focus on adding punctuation where it's needed; a student with strong punctuation skills can correct spelling and write more complex sentences. Periodically, have students select a piece for "publication." These stories will go through another round of editing with time to correct all mistakes.
- The Art of Teaching Writing; Lucy Calkins; April 1994
- Writing Mini-Lessons for Second Grade; Dorothy P. Hall, Patricia M. Cunningham, Debra R. Smith
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