Creating a Writing Inspiration Station

WritingCenter with Shurley English.jpg

There’s nothing like the dreaded feeling of sitting at your desk with a blank sheet of writing paper staring back at you.  You see some of your classmates busily jotting down ideas; you see them creating their prewriting map; or you see some classmates looking upward with a pleasant grin, lost in their imagination.  Not you though; your white paper just taunts you with thoughts like these: “So, what are you going to write about this time?” or “There’s nothing to write about; you’re all out of ideas!” 

For some students, it’s very challenging and even defeating to come up with an idea to write about.  As teachers, we know how valuable the process of writing is, but our students may not.  The process of writing is already a lengthy and sometimes scary journey for many of them.  I believe it is important to create a writing experience in which students can be inspired and where they will feel comfortable enough to take some writing risks.  Create a new writing vibe in your classroom by setting up a Writing Inspiration Station.  

The purpose of a Writing Inspiration Station is to help your students experience how special the process of sharing their voice in the written form really is.  The level of comfort a student feels when they know how to write a paragraph, an essay, and write for all purposes is empowering!  The station acts as a quiet place where a student can sit to gain inspiration or to work through the Writing Process.  It can be that special place where a student might spread out and really engage with their writing. 

The Writing Inspiration Station needs to be set up so that your students want to do their work there.  For instance, it needs to be warm and inviting.  Ideally, organize the station with a table and a few chairs.  Stock it with all of the writing essentials—paper, pens, pencils, pre-writing maps, writing outlines, dictionaries, thesauruses, a soft light, and a Shurley English Writing Folder.

In addition, create a bulletin board adjacent to the table so students can easily review writing tips, transition words, Power Words, steps in the Writing Process, or writing samples.  For those kiddos with writer’s block, add a small bucket of writing prompts for each genre of writing to help inspire them.  Change it monthly, align it with the genre you’re currently teaching, and use it as your Teacher-Student Writing Conference space; the ideas are endless!

Use your own creativity to set up a unique Writing Inspiration Station, and see how your students thrive with the new writing vibe.

BONUS:  If you’re looking for some extra writing prompts to get you through the year, try these!

FIRST LINES/LAST LINES

Think of a story that might begin or end with one of these sentences:

  1. Today, I got the phone call.

  2. Heidi dropped the last of her photographs into the trash.

  3. Why wasn’t I surprised that the light switch didn’t work either.

  4. I hoped they remembered the old adage, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

  5. One of these days, I’m going to say no.

  6. I knew that sound. Dragons.

  7. I thought space was supposed to be silent.

  8. Who’s that woman in the photo?

  9. Two years ago, I swore I’d never come back here again.

  10. It’s not unusual to find odd bits of paper tucked into library books for a bookmark, but this time it was a letter.

  11. Some jokes just aren’t funny.

  12. “Moon Base Epsilon failed to report, sir.”

  13. We heard the approaching horses (car) and hurried further into the woods.

  14. I was not ready to admit defeat.

  15. “This is the last straw!”

  16. Josh looked guilty.

  17. Maria looked up from her reading and her book fell from her lap.

  18. I’d always wondered what real fear felt like. I was sorry I found out.

  19. Monday was supposed to be the worst day of the week. Today had it beat by a mile.

  20. We all felt the cold before he entered the hall.

    First Lines/Last Lines Source: http://www.wrightingwords.com/writing-starters/

Grammar Time: What part of speech is the word THERE?

There with Shurley English.jpg

The word “there” is a commonly used word that can be difficult to classify because of the various roles it can play in a sentence.  There can be used as an adverb, pronoun, noun, or adjective, and sometimes as an interjection.  So, what’s the big deal about this word?

The truth is that it’s not always easy to determine how the word there is being used in a sentence. In fact, it can be downright confusing!  So, in order to figure it out, you have to look closely at how it’s being used in context.

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the word there shows up in a sentence as an expletive.   If you’re not familiar with this term, allow me to explain. An expletive is an “extra word” that is not grammatically related to the rest of the sentence.  Here’s an example sentence.  Read it carefully and locate the simple subject: 

There are some pencils in my desk drawer.

The word there is not the subject of the sentence; the simple subject is pencils.  There is being used as an expletive and serves to get the sentence moving.  Any time a sentence begins with the word there, the true subject will be farther on in the sentence, so don’t be fooled! 

Another way to determine if the word there is being used as an expletive is to rewrite the sentence without using it.  If you can rewrite it without losing any meaning, you will know you’re correct.   Notice how the sentence meaning does not change when I leave out the word there:

Some pencils are in my desk drawer.

Study the following guide to help you understand how to label and classify the various roles of the word there.  Then, remember that if it’s being used as the first word in a sentence, it could possibly be an expletive!

There with Shurley English.png

Grammar Reinforcement: Creating Confidence Cards

Confidence with SHurley English.jpg

I love teaching!  I love the challenge of finding ways to teach children how academic content connects to their real life.  My love of teaching has carried over into the world of life coaching, and in this capacity, I can help teens feel good about who they are.

Let’s be real.  Life can be tough for many children these days, and many of them could benefit from a little more positivity in their lives.  For this reason, I found a way to connect my passion for helping teens develop a positive sense of self by using sentence patterns taught in Shurley English. 

Shurley English teaches seven sentence patterns.  All of the patterns include action verbs except for Pattern 4 and Pattern 5.  These two patterns include a linking verb (LV).  A linking verb expresses a state of being and shows no action.  Study the following chart to review the core parts of the seven sentence patterns:

Sentence Patterns with Shurley English.png

The core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence include a subject noun (SN), a linking verb (LV), and a predicate adjective (PA).  The linking verb links the simple subject to an adjective in the predicate part of the sentence that modifies the subject.  As students recite the Question and Answer Flow, a step is included to help them understand clearly that a predicate adjective modifies the subject.  Here’s an example:

Pattern 5 Sample with Shurley English.png

Now that I’ve refreshed your memory about the core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence, I’d like to share an idea that will focus on Pattern 5 sentences AND help your students develop a strong sense of self.  It’s called, “Writing Confidence Cards.”

To get started, you will need ten index cards for each student.  After passing them out, follow these steps:

  1. Review the core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence. 

  2. Write the words: “I am ____.” on the board. 

  3. Tell students that they will be choosing a positive predicate adjective to fill in the blank that will describe them.

  4. Model some positive word choice examples (SP LV PA):

    I am creative.

    I am beautiful.

    I am confident.

    I am intelligent.

  5. Tell students to write a different sentence on each index card.

  6. Review the sentences to make sure they have written appropriate sentences.

  7. Ask students to illustrate and decorate each card.

  8. When students have completed their set of Confidence Cards, they will be able to use them in a variety of ways.  (See below.)

Here are a few “Confidence Card” activities to utilize in your classroom:

  • Ask students to choose one card from their deck as their journal writing topic.

  • Create a class deck.

  • Choose a card from your class deck as the topic for a class discussion as part of your morning routine.

  • Make a duplicate card deck for a think-pair-share activity.  Pass out the deck, making sure two of the same cards have been handed out.  Have students with the same card pair up and discuss how their “I am___.” statement applies to them.

  •  Invite the school counselor to your classroom for a team teaching opportunity to discuss the benefits of positive self-talk.

As you can see, Confidence Cards provide a unique way to reinforce the Pattern 5 sentence and boost your students’ self-esteem. Do you have a unique way to reinforce grammar study in your classroom? If so, we would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below.