Preventing "I Don't Know What to Write About"


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When students select Work on Writing during Daily 5, they are choosing to practice their writing skills by writing about self-selected topics in their writing notebooks. The freedom to choose what to write about is empowering and can be motivating when a child has an idea to pursue. This same freedom can also be a roadblock if the child is unsure or can't decide where to start. Teachers often cringe when they hear "I don't know what to write about."  

One idea to avoid this struggle is to provide time for students to create a personal list of topics they can visit when they are stuck. This can be done through a one-minute power write, where students write as many ideas as they can in one minute. It is important for them to know they won't be expected to write about each and every topic and that they are merely generating a list they can refer to later.   

Start by having students get out their writing notebooks and open them to the back page. Then tell them they will have one minute. When you say "Go" they are to begin writing ideas and not stop until the minute is up. Afterward, they can share with an elbow buddy and add to their list if they hear a new idea they hadn't thought of during the power write. Explain to your students that this list is to be used as a reference on the days they get writer's block and don't know what to write about. It is often helpful to generate a new list two or three times a year.

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