One of the most important things to remember when teaching writing is that writing is a process.
Very few native speakers will ever start writing at the top of the first page and continue straight through until they finish at bottom of the last one. The entire process has five steps, but the first step in the writing process is coming up with your thoughts and ideas, also known as prewriting. Prewriting helps students gather ideas and give them a bank of possibilities for their writing. This way, as students write they do not have to make decisions simultaneously about content and language. Help your students get a head start before they write with any of these six methods for prewriting. ...view middle of the document...
Spelling and grammar are not important for this activity; it is ideas that we are trying to grasp. Give your students a set length of time for this activity. If they are young you may want to limit it to two or three minutes; older students can probably write for five to ten minutes. Then when students have completed the activity, have them go back and read what they have written digging through the mire for the gems hidden within.
Journalistic questions approach a topic in a more structured manner. Start by reviewing the question words: who, what, where, when, why and how. Then, for your given topic, ask questions starting with each of these words. For example, if your topic was study habits, you might ask, “Who has good study habits? Who benefits from good study habits? What are the good habits? Where do people with good study habits study? Where to they keep their books? Where do they organize notes and homework? When do they study? When do they complete assignments? ...” There are an infinite number of questions you can ask about any given subject. This activity can be done either individually or in groups with success. Have students write answers to each question. When finished prewriting, have them go back and read what they have written and organize their thoughts in preparation for writing.
Cluster mapping, also called idea webbing, is a great way to show relationships between ideas. Cluster mapping is also part idea generation and part organization, so students will know exactly how to group their ideas once they are ready to write. To begin,write your topic in the center of the page and put a circle around it. Then you can move in one of two directions. With younger children, have them think of questions about the topic. For example, if the topic is spiders, they may ask, “What do spiders eat? Where to spiders live? What do spiders look like?” Each question should be written in a bubble connected to the central topic. Tell students to spread these bubbles out over the page as they will be adding to each. Then, have students answer the questions connecting still smaller bubbles to the bubbles containing the questions. If their question was “What do spiders do?” then they might make connecting bubbles saying they capture flies, they spin webs, they scare nursery rhyme characters, etc. With students who have more knowledge about their central topic, their bubbles connected to the central idea should include subtopics and/or details about the subtopics. A student may start with spiders as the central theme, make a connecting bubble with the subtopic of diet, then connect bubbles to that subtopic with different types of...