Setting up my classroom and planning for a brand new year might be one of my very favorite things about teaching. New materials, fresh classroom decor, and fun (and functional) centers just make my teacher heart SO happy! Whenever I am setting up my classroom for a new year, I like to make sure some careful planning goes into my writing center. Today, I’ll be sharing a peek at just how I set up my back-to-school writing center!
Planning Your Writing Center
When setting up a writing center for young learners, it’s important to spend some time thinking about what you hope to achieve. This will obviously depend greatly on the grade level you are working with. In my kindergarten classroom, there are always a few things at the top of my list including:
- Working on Proper Letter Formation
- Expanding Vocabulary
- Building Words
- Making Lists
- Learning To Label
- Forming Sentences
- Creative Writing
In kindergarten, these key skills lay the foundation for lifelong success in writing- every teacher’s goal, right?! While my students will practice all of these skills in different ways throughout the year, I love to make sure I highlight each of these in my writing center for some added practice, presented in a fun way!
In the beginning weeks of school, I keep our writing center pretty simple with only a few of the most basic activities like letter formation and tracing. This helps my students learn the proper way to use the writing center, the expectations for using writing materials and also helps them adjust to the routine. As time goes on, I will add more activities from each of the categories mentioned to encourage growth and independence in writing.
Letter Formation In The Writing Center
Young learners spend a ton of time working on letter formation. This is a key skill we work on in the kindergarten classroom.
In our room, we use lots of other mediums aside from pencils and paper to do this. We use sand, shaving cream, watercolors, and even play dough!
Needless to say, the children get plenty of exposure to working on letter formation, but I find that adding an activity focused on this in my writing center never hurts! For this, I love using laminated letter cards and dry erase markers.
I simply prep these ahead of time and store them together with dry erase markers in a small bin or pencil box.
Kiddos can practice tracing along the lines and then erase and allow another friend to try! This is a great way to cut down on paper in the writing center while still getting plenty of practice.
Expanding Vocabulary & Building Words
Being sure to include a wide variety of vocabulary cards in my writing center is a must on my list. I love to swap these out seasonally so that students can use them to help write sentences on their own throughout the year.
At back-to-school time, I include vocabulary charts (with pictures) centered around school, school supplies, people the children might find at school, rooms in a school, and things we do at recess. These serve as a great way to prompt the children in their writing. I like to laminate these and store them in the writing center so students can use a chart as needed while they work.
Along with the picture charts, I also include a set of laminated cards with a space for students to trace the words. This is a great way to continue working on letter formation and help young students understand that we use letters to make words!
Finally, I love using “Build & Write” activities to target tracing and writing skills. This activity uses both playdough and a dry erase marker, making it a classroom favorite. Each page shows a picture of a classroom school supply. Students will build the picture with playdough and then practice tracing and writing the word. I make sure to pop these in a dry erase pocket beforehand, so they can be used again and again!
Work On Making Lists In The Writing Center
In kindergarten, one of the students’ favorite writing activities is always making lists! Kiddos love making lists and this is a great activity to transition to once your students have the hang of tracing.
For this activity, I like to provide some blank, list-making sheets in my writing center that have a space for students to draw a picture and write a word. Then, I provide my kiddos with those vocabulary charts or tracing cards and let them pick a few of their favorites.
From there, kiddos can write the word and then draw a picture to match. My students always love this idea since they get to pick what goes on their list!
These blank lists are great for repurposing throughout the year as well. I like to use them each time I swap out my seasonal vocabulary cards to allow students to pick their favorite “new” words in our writing center.
Learning To Label & Form Sentences
Once your students have that down, take it up a notch with labeling. This activity will allow a bit of problem-solving as students examine a picture and try to find the words to label each piece. As a bonus, these labeling pages also include some extra lines so that students can begin forming sentences!
To start out, I recommend modeling a sentence about the picture for students to copy. This is a great way to show kiddos how they can use this form in the future on their own.
In addition to the labeling pages, I also like to use writing paper with a beginning sentence prompt and a word bank to encourage forming sentences. This is a wonderful way to help young writers begin to think about how they can form sentences on their own. During back-to-school time, I like to use prompts that discuss school supplies and things the students do at school to keep in line with our theme.
Encourage Creative Writing
Once your students get the hang of all of the basics, it’s time to encourage some more advanced writing. I love presenting opportunities for creative writing to my students early on in the year so that I can track progress all year long. I have found that if we provide students with the opportunity, they will continue to grow and challenge themselves.
To encourage creative writing, I like to use a variety of writing prompts. I will typically feature a new one for a few days and then swap it out for another. This keeps writing feeling fresh and exciting to my students!
Finish The Picture & Write
This is a fun prompt to get your kiddos started with creative writing. On these sheets, they will add details to the picture that is already there and then write a story about it. It’s always pretty funny to see what those little learners come up with for these writing prompts!
You Pick & Write
“You Pick & Write” is another great option, to begin with. In this writing prompt, kiddos are asked to choose between two pictures and then write a sentence about the image they chose. I find that whenever my students are given the power to choose, they are instantly more engaged and excited! I always make sure these are included in my writing center at some point during the year.
Spin & Write
My students LOVE this one! All you need is a paperclip and pencil for this page and kiddos will be able to create a super silly story. Students will spin both spinners and write a story that uses both pictures. There is usually endless laughing and smiling in the writing center when this prompt is available. Just be sure to check in every so often to make sure your kiddos are actually getting those silly stories onto paper!
Basic Writing Paper
Finally, don’t forget a plain sheet of paper with lines for writing and a spot to color. Young students are highly creative and I am always amazed at what they come up with all on their own. I like to make sure they have access to the vocabulary charts and tracing cards for this writing page to help spark their thought process!
Writing Center Materials
Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to stock up on all the essentials you will be using in your writing center! The materials I like to get include:
- Dry Erase Pockets & Markers: These will eliminate the need for a lot of laminating and allow you to use writing center materials over and over!
- Triangle Pencils: I love these pencils made especially for little hands! These are great for young learners to start out with at the beginning of the year.
- Playdough: Make sure to grab some playdough for your build and write activities!
- Crayons: Don’t forget to stock your center with coloring materials! I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you can find these amazing deals in store during back-to-school sales.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can also add some markers, stickers, and stamps to your writing center to encourage some added creativity. I always find these items at the dollar store around the time we are headed back to school.
Set Up Your Own Back To School Writing Center
Excited to start planning your own writing center?! I hope this post was inspiring to you as you begin to plan for a new year or make adjustments to your existing writing center. You can grab some free resources for your Back to School writing center below.
As I mentioned before, I encourage you to start slow with the activities you have available and build upon them as students begin to show continued independence and understanding in the center.
There are so many wonderful ways to build a writing center but if you are interested in any of the materials I am using in my classroom, they can all be found in my Back to School Writing Center resource.
Feel free to pick and choose what works best for your kiddos and adapt as necessary. Most importantly, have fun building a writing center that’s perfect for your classroom!
Save This Post For Later
Don’t forget to Pin this post to your Back-To-School Pinterest board so that you will be all set when it comes time to build your writing center! Happy planning, friends!