Work on Writing—Generating Ideas


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Work on Writing is a time when students engage in writing with self-selected topics and formats. This choice is freeing and motivating for many students. Occasionally, they struggle with finding a topic. When this happens, it can be helpful to teach them how to discover new ideas. In this video, Carlie Quam (classroom teacher) and Jessica Hellberg (literacy coach) help fifth graders go deeper with a topic list they created earlier in the year.

Listen and Watch

  • Has your class generated a list of topics? What broad topics would be important to the students you have this year?
  • Students are asked to record ideas during the focus lesson. How might that inform Carlie and Jessica about the success of the lesson and next steps?


  • How might coming up with new layers in the broad topics support the writers in your room?
  • Having students turn and talk would allow every student to share. How do you decide when to have students turn and talk and when to have just a few share?
  • What would you do to support a student who didn’t write anything during the one-minute practice?

Essential Element 6.5 Choice: What to write—students choose writing genre and topics.

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