Creating a Writing Inspiration Station

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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?

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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!

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Help Your Students Improve Their Revision Skills

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How many times have you asked your students to revise their work, only to have all of the papers returned to the hand-in basket within a few minutes with little to no changes at all?  The problem is that many students lack the necessary grammar skills required to revise. 

Simply writing a comment on a student’s paper to suggest a revision isn’t enough.  These comments are usually unclear and unhelpful to them—i.e. ‘too vague, too wordy, repetitive, etc.’ Students need more support and instruction than this; they need someone to show them how to make these types of revisions if they are to learn how to revise their content and achieve optimum results.

Students need a well-rounded grammar foundation to write with competence, and that foundation should include learning very specific revision skills.  It doesn’t have to be a painstaking task, but it is a process that must be taught.

First, students must understand that revising means to find ways to improve word choices and sentences in their rough draft.  They must also understand that revising requires them to read their rough draft critically several times to make sure they’ve said what they intended to say in the way they intended to say it.  They must read it aloud to themselves, and it helps to read it aloud to others to help find the “rough spots” that could use improvement.

A checklist to revise and improve the rough draft can be extremely beneficial.  The following example will help students focus their attention on five of the traits of effective writing, including:  (1.) ideas, (2.) organization, (3.) word choice, (4.) voice, and (5.) sentence fluency.  Try it out in your classroom today to help your students improve their revision skills!

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