In case you are late to the party, I have been sharing how I run literacy centres in my classroom over the past few weeks. You can find out how I start centres in this post, how I organize them over here, and see ALL of the centres I have posted about so far by clicking here.
Today, I want to talk to you about our writing centre. I loove our writing centre! I love teaching writing in general because children are such natural (and hilarious) story tellers, and because writing is automatically differentiated without much extra work. Each child is able to work at their own ability, and progress naturally with time. In addition to running Writer's Workshop in my classroom (which you can read about here), I also have time for writing during centres. This gives my students extra time to practice and solidify what they are learning during Writer's Workshop, as well as exposure to other genres and ideas. Here are my best tips for starting a smooth Centre d'écriture in your classroom!
1. START WITH WHAT THEY KNOW...again!
As I have stated LOTS of times already (starting here), it is so important to start with what your students can already do. In kindergarten, this might just be drawing, or colouring, or maaaybe writing their name. That's fine! You need to start with what they already know how to do so that you can teach them your behaviour expectations before pushing them out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to try something new. So, on the first day, I may just have a bin with blank paper, colouring sheets, and some crayons. I will talk to my students at the carpet for 5-7 minutes before sending them off to work, and on the first day of talking about the writing centre, we usually review voice level and/or clean up. With certain groups, I have also had to mention writing on your OWN paper - not your partner's ;) Once they have behaviours exactly how you like, you can move on to teaching them some new routines/procedures and exposing them to some new genres or things to try out.
|Here are some of my students at the Writing Centre on the very first day. Those awesome colouring sheets are from Krista Wallden's TPT store!|
2. PROVIDE *SPECIAL* MATERIALS
One way I get my students excited about the writing centre (even though we do Writer's Workshop as a class only about an hour before centre time) is by putting special materials in our writing centre bin that they don't get to use at other times during the day. These things are only to be used during the writing centre. Some ideas include markers (of different sizes), *real* notepads or papers for writing lists (thank you, dollar store!!), blank cards, blank mini books, smelly crayons or coloured pencils, Twistable crayons or coloured pencils, etc. These are things that they don't get to use all the time, so it is important to show them how you would like to use them and clean them up before you add them to the bin (such as putting the caps on the markers and listening for the click sound!). I like to switch out materials throughout the year as well, to keep it exciting.
3. GIVE THEM THINGS TO REFERENCE
The goal of centres is to have your students working independently while you pull a small group. Writing can be hard for kinders, especially at the beginning of the year. Struggle is good for them, but we don't want them to feel that writing is IMPOSSIBLE and get discouraged, especially when you aren't available to give them a gentle push in the right direction. It is important to provide them with the tools that they need in order to be independent and successful. Depending on your students, these tools may include a personal word wall, thematic word wall cards, lists or cards with student names, access to the classroom word wall, "I Can" posters and anchor charts that you have created together for each genre, samples of successful student work, or a rubric that you have created together showing how they can create the best work possible (like the one pictured below, that I found on Pinterest). My writing centre is at a special table, with a white board behind it. I post all of the anchor charts and references that we create together on the white board (and I naturally forgot to take a picture of it - oops!)
This image comes from Pinterest, but was a broken link and has no watermark!! If you know whose awesome rubric this is or from what blog it is from, PLEASE let me know so that I can credit the author! It is a fantastic rubric for kindergarten!
Let your students know what you expect of them, and how they can produce that! Don't forget to show off your students' great work when they try things out that you encouraged them to do.
4. USE MINI LESSONS TO PUSH THEM FARTHER
You want your students to improve, try new things, and push themselves. Use mini lessons at the carpet (5-7 minutes before sending them off to their centres) to expose your students to new ideas or even new genres of writing that they can try out on their own. This works especially well I find when you can link what you are showing them to a real-life, practical reason why it would be a great idea to know this skill. For example, I teach my students about writing lists during this time - it is not a part of my Writer's Workshop. Students LOVE writing lists, and can see a real value in that task - they see their parents write grocery lists and to do lists, and they get super excited to write lists featuring their classmates' names. Here are some of the topics/genres that I expose to my students during the writing centre:
- lists (we brainstorm topics together and usually come up with the following ideas: favourite seasonal things, girls/boys in our class, who we want to invite to our birthday parties (side note - I highly suggest reading the book Bonne idée, Zoé before encouraging that one - BRILLIANT book!), Christmas lists (both gifts and who to buy for), to-do lists, grocery lists, etc.)
- labelling (both our pictures and pre-made pictures - see below for a freebie!)
- blank paper for writing stories in different sizes, colours, shapes, and styles
- blank booklets (pamphlet style or book style)
- blank cards
- wordless picture cards that they can draw and then practice adding more details to (you can ask them to share their story orally with their partner and/or write their story using words). For example, you may provide a picture of a cat, and they would draw where the cat is, who it is with, etc. and come up with a story about it.
- a blank community journal and a bin of pictures (the front sides of holiday cards and/or photos of your students playing together work GREAT!). Students can glue a picture into the journal and write about it.
One thing that I highly recommend to help make all of these attempts run more smoothly is to provide your students with some sort of visual, thematic vocabulary list or vocabulary cards. I print out the thematic word wall cards from my TPT store, hole punch them in the corner, and put them on a binder ring. I keep the cards right in the writing bin during that holiday or season, and then hang them on magnetic hooks on my white board once they are no longer seasonally-appropriate. That way, students can go back and find words again later if needed.
Do you have access to my FREE French Resource Library? These writing centre sheets are inside, in the Écriture section! This is the kind of sheet that I use to teach my students to label pre-made pictures. They can then translate this knowledge to their own pictures if they so choose. There is a word bank on the bottom, but it also goes well with my farm word wall cards. Just click click on the button below to subscribe and I will email you the exclusive password to get into the library!
I hope this post was helpful! Let me know in the comments if you cover any other genres or topics during your writing centre - I would love to know! I should also add that I let my students choose what kind of writing they want to practice or explore each day, and I also don't evaluate their writing from centre time - simply because I can't be 100% certain that it was completed without help from their partner (I encourage collaboration during centres!) :)