Teaching Writing by the Trait: Generating Ideas!

In the past I used to focus on teaching various forms of writing that I was told were important to teach (letter writing, procedural writing, recounts etc.). I never quite understood why I was supposed to spend so much time on making sure all student's writing would essentially look and sound basically the same. The students were bored and I was bored reading their writing! You can read more about that in my review post of the book, "No More I'm Done" (I'm a big fan of this book).

Once I ditched the idea that I had to spend a lot of time teaching specific forms of writing, my student's writing improved, became more creative and they were more engaged. Also, despite me not teaching them how to write a procedure, they could still do it. How were they able to do this? It's simple. I exposed them to a variety of types of writing on a regular basis. Through exposure to different types of writing they figured out for themselves how to write various forms.

Writing isn't meaningful unless it is meaningful to the author. 

This is why I switched to teaching using the traits. Read on to find out how I teach the ideas trait:

Right now we are working on the ideas trait. Many students struggle with generating ideas, especially at the beginning of the year. Before my students go off to start writing they must always, "turn and talk" to a partner and share what their ideas are for writing before they go and get started. This gives me a quick indicator of who needs to spend some time working on idea generation.

We also started building up our bank of writing ideas for those times when we are stuck for something to write about. We're using, "My Fabulous Writing Ideas" booklet to keep our ideas organized for the year.

I started by creating my own idea web on chart paper called, "Things I know About". Then I sent them off to work on their own idea webs. This is just one of the activities in our "Writing Ideas Booklet".

If they were unable to spell the words I asked them to write the sounds that they heard and draw a mini picture below to help them remember what the idea was. Many of them have referred to their idea webs already to help generate ideas.

We never follow the booklet in order, students choose which page they want to add ideas to depending on what they are interested in at the time, what page stands out to them etc. Some days they add one idea to the booklet, other days they fill a page or two.

Other things we include in our Fabulous Writing Ideas booklets are ideas for word substitutions (e.g., what other words can you use for 'said'). We also make lists of topics for various forms of writing that they might be interested in writing about.

You can find this Ideas Trait booklet in my store by clicking here or on the image above.

How do you help your students to generate ideas for writing?

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