The writing center has always been one of my favorite centers; probably because it has always been one of my students’ favorite centers as well! Seriously, they choose to go to the writing center during free time over computers or legos.
So what’s the key to making your writing center so engaging to your students that they choose to go there over playing? The answer is: choice!
Of course, choice doesn’t mean having a free for all at the writing center. I make sure to set high expectations for the materials at this center and I don’t put out all the choices at once. I introduce 3 at the beginning of the year and then 1-2 each quarter.
The choices then stay the same, but the vocabulary cards and the themes change to keep it fresh. I have themed writing centers that I can keep all month or change out whenever we focus on a new topic. This keeps my students excited and connects what we’re learning in other areas to our center time!
I keep the choices in these letter trays. You could hang the vocabulary cards on hooks or on a ribbon using clothespins. I’ve done both and they both work just fine! I also keep visual directions for each activity here so students always know the expectations.
I’m going to show you some of my favorite activities to keep at my writing center below!
This free activity is perfect for beginning writers because it exposes them to sentence structure, sight words, and vocabulary, but also scaffolds their writing by providing the sentence frame.
In this activity, students will trace the sentence and use the vocabulary cards to finish the sentence. They will also draw a matching picture, which gives them practice drawing matching illustrations.
You could also save paper and make this reusable by sticking it in a dry erase sleeve.
Again, you can find this activity free here.
This is another great activity for beginning writers, but I love this activity for all year because it exposes students to vocabulary and gives them practice with longer words.
Some of my students choose to stretch out the words instead of looking at the vocabulary cards and that is perfectly fine with me! I love seeing their progress throughout the year.
ANOTHER easy activity, but it’s also easy to differentiate! Students can write generic lists, which I usually keep out from day 1, or I can have them write lists on specific topics.
Again, this exposes them to new vocabulary and drawing pictures to match their words.
I have two different levels of writing paper. One just has a couple lines and is perfect for emergent writers. Once my students can write multiple pages for one story, I also let them add covers to make their own books!
I also have story starter paper, which is great for those students who take ten years to think of a writing topic. They already have the topic provided for them; they just have to write about the picture!
This is an activity I usually introduce the second semester, because I like to take the time to teach my students the proper way to right a letter. It annoys me so much to see a page with just a heart or “hi.” written on it!
How engaging would this be if you actually had a mailbox, though?? I know they usually put small ones in the Target Dollar Spot around Valentine’s Day. You could let students “mail” their letters and have a mailman as a classroom job to deliver the letters!
This is another activity I save either for the end of the year or for my more advanced writers. If you taught 1st or 2nd grade, though, this would be perfect for all year long!
I have so many of these research flip books, so I can keep ones out that match with what we’re learning or put out ones that match student interest. The National Geographic Kids books are perfect for research, or I let my students use Kiddle (the kid-friendly Google) on the computers!
If you want to start your own writing center, or even just change yours up, i’m offering my Themed Writing Centers for the Year for just $15 right now as I add in the themes! There are currently 10 themes included (a $30 value), and I will be adding in at least 29 more!
In each themed pack, you’ll get the visual directions posters you can display, picture vocabulary cards, multiple labeling pages, list pages, writing and story start paper, a card, and letter paper.