Strategies for Supporting Beginning Writers
With the significant rise in the use of technology over the past few years, one thing remains true: students need to learn how to write proficiently and express their ideas in writing. As students grow into beginning writers, they must learn the mechanics of proper handwriting, organizing their ideas, and writing in a clear and organized manner. These writing strategies for beginning writers will help you support your beginning writers throughout the entire writing process.
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Before students dive into generating ideas and writing sentences, it’s important to get students ready to write. These prewriting strategies for beginning writers will help students build fine motor skills and visual-spatial skills. These skills are necessary to help them correctly grip their pencil, position their paper, and copy from the board.
Incorporate fine motor skills,
Writing takes a lot of coordination for young students. By consistently incorporating fine motor skill practice and activities into the learning throughout the year, students will be able to perfect their pencil grip, position their paper properly, and control their pencil pressure as they write.
Start with directed drawings.
Directed drawings are a great prewriting strategy for beginning writers. It helps them practice direction following and visual-spatial skills as they look at the drawing on the board and transfer it to their paper. You can also guide your students in labeling the drawing with one word that describes the picture.
Practice copying sentences.
After your students have begun mastering directed drawings and labeling with one word, it’s time to introduce students to complete sentences. To begin, write a complete sentence on the board and practice reading it with your students.
Discuss the capital letters, end-mark, spacing, and sight words or CVC words they see. Then, have students copy the sentence from the board onto their own piece of paper or writing journal.
Tips For Writing Success
As your students begin writing sentences, there are a few key writing strategies to help your beginning writers master the mechanics of handwriting and writing conventions.
Giving students writing paper with large enough lines and a space to illustrate is key. This will help them practice proper handwriting skills and will eliminate frustration. It is helpful to use lined story paper that clearly defines the top, middle, and bottom lines. If your students are having a difficult time touching the lines correctly, highlight the top and bottom lines to provide an added visual.
Another writing strategy for beginning writers is to use a spaceman tool. This writing tool gives a visual and physical aid to help them understand proper spacing between words. If you don’t have a spaceman tool, you can teach students to lay down a crayon or craft stick in between their words. Each time they write a new word, they simply move the crayon or craft stick.
Eventually, they can eliminate the physical tool and use their finger to make a finger space. Eventually, they’ll be able to leave proper spaces with no supports in place.
Conventions and punctuation.
Even in the beginning stages of writing, it’s important to explicitly teach writing conventions and punctuation. An effective way to do this is by teaching mini-writing lessons over each convention and type of punctuation.
During the mini lesson, practice using the conventions and punctuation on the whiteboard by filling in the missing capitalization, punctuation, spacing, and practice sounding out words and using sight words. You can even have students help fix up a mixed up sentence to work their brains in a different way.
Once your students have built up their fine motor skills, are copying sentences with success, and have a good understanding of writing conventions and punctuation, it’s time to help them start generating ideas and organizing details.
Free draw is a writing strategy for beginning writers that allows students to begin the writing process with an illustration. Give students 5-10 minutes to draw freely and illustrate their picture. This will help them generate ideas about what they want to write about. After time is up, give students ample time to write about what they’ve drawn.
Instead of wasting time and getting frustrated trying to figure out what to write about, this strategy flips the process and allows students to inspire their writing through their illustration.
Turn and talk.
Another way to help students generate ideas for writing is to have students turn and talk to a partner. Give students a topic to discuss, such as their favorite food or a game they like to play. Set the timer for 2-5 minutes and have them discuss ideas for what they want to write about. They can even share their illustrations from their free draw time to explain their idea. This will spark conversation and help generate added details as well.
By speaking their ideas aloud, they’ll get their creativity flowing. This will give them a solid plan of what they want to write about.
After generating ideas and organizing details, students are ready to put all of their beginning writing skills together to create their very own writing piece.
Use a writing prompt.
One of the best writing strategies for beginning writers is to help them begin their writing piece with a writing prompt or sentence starter. This helps them kickstart their writing piece and tie in their ideas and details. You can write a sentence starter on the whiteboard for students to copy down onto their paper. Encourage each student to finish the sentence using their own ideas.
You can also use a picture word bank writing prompt. Give students different pictures and picture names to include in their writing. You can draw simple pictures, such as a dog, sun, or crayon on the board and label the picture with the picture name. As they write, they can incorporate those words into their sentence.
To help support your beginning writers, it is a great strategy to sit down with your students 1-on-1 to read their writing, offer feedback, guide the editing process, and give praise. Students will feel special knowing they get to read their special writing piece to you and tell you about their story. This also gives you the opportunity to reteach and provide differentiated support as needed.
As your students’ writing progresses and they are working on longer writing pieces, you can help eliminate the overwhelm by working together as a class to write a class story. First, choose a topic and brainstorm ideas as a class, mapping out the story sequentially.
Then, assign a specific part of the story to each student. They will use a piece of story paper to write their part of the story and illustrate it. Lastly, put all of the pages together to make a class story, having each student read their part. This is a great way to encourage community building in the classroom as well.
With these writing strategies for beginning writers, you can support your beginning writers throughout the entire writing process with confidence and differentiate your instruction to meet their needs.