It has been a while since I have shared a writing idea, so I thought I would write about one of my favorite ways to get some super authentic writing topics for your students. This post is all about generating writing topics using lists in a writer’s notebook. To read about generating writing topics using heart maps, click here. To read another method for generating narrative ideas using “I Bet You Didn’t Know” lists , click here.
Today, I will share a way to get your students authentically generating writing topics for all three genres of writing. These are perfect ways to incorporate choice, instead of using on demand prompts as the sole means of writing (even though they definitely serve their purpose).
This is actually an activity that I do at the beginning of the school year. However, you could definitely do this at any point in the year to generate more ideas. Basically, when given a main topic or “prompt’ the students generate a list of topics that fit that criteria. We always start with narrative lists because those are typically easier to generate and more “student friendly.” I model this for the students on a chart paper before they actually complete their lists or complete it as I talk about it with my chart in front of me. As I am generating ideas, I am modeling for the students how to choose topics they could write at least one exciting story about.
Here a few things to note:
- I don’t put all my experiences and places on my list that I know my students haven’t gone to or had themselves. Notice I put Walmart on one of the places I have been in the picture below. This will help your students feel confident even if they have limited experiences. I could tell a few stories about trips to Walmart that would be pretty engaging, and I bet your students could too.
- I don’t number the topics under each list. This allows the students to add to the list as the year progresses.
Here are some topics or “prompts” for persuasive writing. When I introduce this idea generating lesson, I do a mini lesson on the genre of persuasive writing so the student have that in the back of their mind as they generate ideas.
When we dive into persuasive writing, I will sometimes have the students choose a specific list to write from that day. For example, we may all write essays persuading everyone to get an item from our “I Can’t Live Without List.” This allows the students to all have a similar writing topic (without giving an on-demand prompt) so my mini-lessons can be very targeted.
Finally, we have informational writing ideas. For this genre, I definitely make an intentional effort to make sure the students add to the list on a regular basis throughout the year as we learn about more science and social studies topics. I don’t make them add each topic that we learn about. Instead, I let them choose the ones they are most excited about.
Those are my go-to activities to get some student chosen topics for all the writing genres. These are their go-to ideas for writer’s workshop. How do you have your students generate topics for their writing?
Classroom in the Middle says
I’ve done this as a whole-class project, too, where we generate a huge list as a class and then post it in the room as a handy reminder for whenever someone needs an idea to write about-
Thank you for sharing your method.
I have create infographic for brainstorming theme, topic and other important parts. It’s not perfect but I’m happy to share it too.
I asked a month ago, but have not received an answer, How do I get your writing ideas and types of writing? Is it a book, or where are the details so I can have a hard copy to reference?
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Sharon, the only book I currently use is Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell. You can read more about my lessons and writing ideas (and how I generate them) on this post:
Hope this helps!
How do your students organize their reading and writing notebooks (e.g., tabs)?
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Kate, this post shares how I set up the reading notebooks: https://jenniferfindley.com/reading-notebooks-in-4th-and-5th-grade/
I don’t have a post for my writing notebooks but we do a section for Writing Lists, a section for Mini-Lesson Notes, and a Section for Brainstorming New Writing