I am posting my article about Writing Centers from my weekly primary newsletter in hopes that you will share your list! What works well for you? (scroll down)
When considering what to post this week, I stumbled upon a wonderful article by Gayle Robert that encourages us to examine classroom spaces.
The article inspired me to think again about writing centers – an inviting place where all the luscious writing supplies are stored within students’ reach. Here is my thinking and a list of the items in my center.
(If you need an explanation for any of the items on my list, you’ll find it in chapter 2 of my book No More I’m Done which you can read online.)
For a time, I secretly feared that the real purpose of the writing center was to indulge my love of office supplies. (Many of you have heard me say that I’m drawn to Staples the way other women are to shoe stores.) However, letting go of control of supplies helps your students behave independently and frees you to teach writing. After years of working in classrooms other than my own, I do believe having a supply center is essential to a well-oiled workshop.
The writing center can be a permanent or mobile area in the classroom. I’ve seen writing materials rolled in on carts during writing time, or contained in shoe-pocket organizers that are prominently hung when needed.
Here are the supplies I store in my writing center. I’ve divided my list into two categories: items deemed mandatory and those that are optional.
ü Blank paper, story paper, notebook paper
ü Date stamp and ink pad
ü Pencils: standard and blue or green pencils for editing
ü Alphabet charts (may be on folders or adhered to desks)
ü Scissors and tape
ü Graphic organizers
ü Editor’s checklists
ü Scrap paper and supply request forms
ü Pens (often preferred over pencils)
ü Crayons, colored pencils, markers
ü Sticky notes
ü Baby name book
ü Children’s magazines
ü Hole punch
ü Brad fasteners
ü Writing offices
Why a baby name book? If you have ever asked your students to complete a story map before composing, you know that primary students have a tendency to fill in the character section with names of their friends. There’s usually a lot of hubbub as students show one another what they’ve recorded. (Think Valentine’s Day without the sugar.) This can be particularly disruptive in second grade, where the ups and downs of transitory friendships are often the undercurrent of the day, and feelings are easily hurt. But even if there was not a concern of social issues trumping writing, the main problem from a writing instructor’s point of view is that fiction that features one’s young friends quickly stalls after the introduction. Once students have listed the primary characters, the plot goes nowhere. Why? Well, for one, it’s very hard for any writer to use his or her imagination when the material is real flesh and blood. And perhaps, once the fun of selecting and listing the characters is over, the story itself loses energy.
So I tell students that as an author, I never use names of people I know in my fiction. In fact, I do quite the opposite. I turn to a baby name book to find truly unique names-names that are seldom heard and will come alive on the page. (My first picture book, A Net of Stars, features Etta, Harper, and Fiona-names seldom heard where I live in the Northeast.) I place a baby name book in the writing center and suggest they try this technique. It quickly becomes one of my most dog-eared resources. (If you don’t want to invest in a baby name book, bring in an outdated phone book, which provides first and last names.)
Adapted from the upcoming study gudie for No More "I’m Done!" Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades by Jennifer Richard Jacobson