I have been teaching English language learners for many years, and I always find that writing is the hardest subject to teach. Writing sentences with the right English conventions is already hard for my students, not to mention writing paragraphs and essays in different genres and for different groups of audiences. Therefore, I am always looking for and making writing resources to support all my 3rd graders.
Today I am going to share 3 writing resources that I find most helpful and effective. And I hope you may get some ideas that can benefit your students from this post.
The Most Common but Tricky Writing Resource: Graphic Organizers
Who doesn’t love graphic organizers when writing? Starting to write on a piece of white paper is painful and exhausting. However, graphic organizers can give us some basic ideas and help us organize our thoughts. Graphic organizers are common but can also be tricky sometimes. There are a few things we need to pay attention to.
1. Give Clear Directions
Never give students any graphic organizer without clear directions even for the simplest graphic organizer. One way to make the directions clear is to model how to use the graphic organizer on a big chart paper during your mini-lesson.
Make sure you copy the exact graphic organizer you want your students to work on to your chart paper. During your mini-lesson, you can have a discussion with your students and do some shared writing on the chart paper. Keep the chart paper up somewhere in the classroom for students to refer back to.
Another way is to provide detailed directions next to each part of a graphic organizer. Sometimes, students forget and need constant reminders of how to fill out the graphic organizer. Aside from the directions on the top of each worksheet, providing specific directions next to each part of the graphic organizer may be helpful. For example,
With this first graphic organizer (top left), my students can start writing something right away, whereas the second one doesn’t provide much support.
2. Provide Useful Transition Words
After years of teaching, I noticed that students’ writing in graphic organizers is not very smooth or coherent due to a lack of transition words. Adding transition words to the writing is a big step during the “Revise” stage. Therefore, I like to have some useful transition words next to the graphic organizer to help my ELLs write smoothly. For instance,
3. Always Have the Deeper Purpose in Mind
Although graphic organizers are great scaffolding, we teachers always need to remember that the deeper purpose of using the graphic organizers is to help students write and become competent writers, not to complete certain graphic organizers.
Therefore, when students have met the requirement, we should gradually release the support and reduce students’ time spent on the graphic organizers. Besides, I always believe that every writer has his/her own writing style. So allowing flexibility and encouraging creativity is also very important.
We can let students pick graphic organizers that work for them, or students can even go off or modify certain parts of each graphic organizer. Remember, the graphic organizers are there to support thinking, and they are not the end goal.
The Magical Writing Resources For ELLs, Special Eds, and More: Sentence Frames
If you have ever taught ELLs, bilingual students, or students with disabilities, you will know that producing writing is a very very difficult task for them. They struggle a lot even before they write anything. Then they become anxious and lose confidence easily.
As mentioned above, graphic organizers are great but these students need more. They need sentence frames.
Yes, I am not saying just individual sentence frames we use here and there during our lessons. I am talking about well-written, differentiated and thought-provoking sentence frames bundled in paragraphs that can help students write COMPLETE essays. For example,
One year (distance learning year) my class wrote opinion essays on the topic: Should animals be kept in zoos or not? One little girl (3rd grade ELL) wrote an introduction like this at first:
Then I provided her with the sentence frame templates. Here is her second draft:
Although Google Doc automatically corrected some spelling errors for her, this progress is amazing and it’s all because of the worksheet below:
We can tell that the red underlined parts in this girl’s second draft built the structure for her writing, guided her thinking, and gave her confidence. They are all from the sentence frame template above.
The Best Reinforcing Writing Resource: Anchor Charts & Writing Posters
No matter how effective your writing lessons are during the day, students or even adults are not going to remember every important thing you taught. It’s totally normal and understandable, and that’s why we need resources to reinforce it.
I usually make anchor charts on big pieces of chart paper to use during my lessons or put them up in my room. Besides, I like always to print out a smaller version for my students to put in their writing notebooks.
On the other hand, if your classroom is not big enough or there isn’t much space to put chart papers, letter-size posters may be a good choice.
In addition, they are easy to prepare–you only need to color print them. Posters can also be more child-friendly, eye-catching (if you are a bad drawer like me), and can help cultivate a positive classroom learning environment.
To Sum Up
In this post, I shared the 3 best writing resources I find for elementary students. Each has its own characteristics and they also work differently for different groups of students. Which writing resource do you like to use the most with your students? Are there any other resources that work very well with your students?
Let me know by sending me a message over on Instagram @eurekasheets. I can’t wait to see what you have to say.
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