Where Can Ideas to Write About Come From?
The first rule in running a successful writers workshop is to make sure that your students understand that they are never done! They are so accustomed to the idea of being given an assignment that once completed, is turned in and they then go on to something else entirely.
Writers workshop is meant to be never ending. With some training and a little perseverance and planning on your part, your students will soon grow familiar with the format. The trick is to make sure they always have something to do once they finish working on any particular piece.
I am a firm believer in using writing across the curriculum. Over the years of observing my students’ behavior during writing workshop, I have noticed that they sometimes need a change of pace. So I will often assign a piece of writing that is a carryover from a content area. It may be a poem or a flash draft, which is an idea I have used from Ralph Fletcher’s awesome book What A Writer Needs.
Artwork definitely has a place in the writing workshop as well. I will often have students create a piece of art to go along with a poem they have written that depicts their topic with pictures to go along with the words.
Below I have begun work on a list of ideas that may be helpful to you in keeping your writers busy. Please know that it is only a beginning. You will certainly add your own ideas to it as time goes by.
- When they come to you and say they’ve finished the assigned piece and want to know what to do now, remind them about the list of possible topics that they have written on the inside cover of their writing notebooks. (See my section on “Where do the ideas come from?”) Tell them to choose another topic that they would like to write about.
- Have them work on an assigned poem, be it a cinquain, diamante, mandala, or whatever you have chosen, from a specific content area.
- They can create artwork to go along with an assigned poem from content, or a picture to go along with a story or creative piece of writing they have done.
- How about having them do a search for figurative language in your reading anthology, or favorite books? These could be added to a class list, or a “personal bank” where they could go for ideas to use in their own writing.
- Have them do a word search for strong verbs, or wonderfully descriptive adjectives or phrases. Like the “personal bank” of figurative language, these could be used for future reference for themselves, or for the class as a whole.
- It’s important to give them time periodically to conference with one another. I build in time to allow my students to read their work to one another, offering compliments and helpful suggestions to each other. This is something that will require you to spend time directly teaching and modeling for them in order for this to have its greatest benefit.
- Something new from something old. Have your students take another look at something they’ve already written and try to figure out a new and different way to write it. Perhaps they can turn a piece of prose into a poem. Or maybe they could write from a different point of view. This could be most effective after direct lessons on revision.