3 Simple Writing Activities for the First Weeks of School 2-3

Looking for some easy back to school writing activities? This blog post includes ideas and lessons teachers can use during the first weeks of school to get started with writer’s notebooks and generating ideas for writing. Perfect for 2nd and 3rd grade students!
Looking for back to school writing activities? This blog post includes ideas and lessons teachers can use during the first weeks of school to get started with writer's notebooks and generating ideas for writing. Perfect for 2nd and 3rd grade students. #2 is a great activity for the first day!

During the first days and weeks of the school year, it’s super important to focus on establishing writing norms and immerse students in activities that help them generate ideas for writing.

If students have practiced, practiced, practiced your expectations for writing and have already come up with a number of ideas for things to write about, your life will be so much easier once it’s time to start centers, or any sort of independent writing work!

Here are three ideas for writing activities you can use as writing lessons with your 2nd and 3rd grade students during those first weeks of school:

Back to School Writing Activity #1: Introduce Writer’s Notebooks

However you feel about a “workshop” model, having a special place for students to do their own writing is a MUST. Whether that be a composition notebook with a special cover, a 3-ring binder with lined paper, or a spiral notebook, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you set norms for what does and does not go in the writer’s notebook and that you give students a chance to write in these on a consistent basis.

5-10 minutes a day is enough, but students should be given at least a few minutes to write in their writer’s notebook (hereafter known as WNB) every day. If you train them well at the beginning of the year, you can set yourself up for success and happiness once you introduce independent work (a.k.a. “centers”).

First week activities you can do with WNB:

*Decorate covers (Yes, I know this might seem like coloring/fluff to some, but if you’re going to spend hours with your writer’s notebook don’t you want it to look like YOU?) If WNBs are going to be special to our students we need to give them time to make them personal.

Pull out the craft paper/cardstock/colored pencils (Sharpies if you dare!) for this. Once the covers are complete, it will be well worth your time and moolah to buy the heavy duty packing tape at Costco to adhere these to notebooks.  Then the covers will last all year (and beyond).

*Discuss WNB norms:

Simple and to the point work great!

Here are the ones I use: {with some teacher asides just for you}

1. Skip Lines! {It’s WAY easier to read student work and for them to make revisions if there are empty lines. I make an exception to the line skipping rule for lists since there’s plenty of empty space on the sides for additions or changes.}

2. Use it for writing (not games or marker testing) {Yes, it is important to make the “no marker testing” rule explicit :)}

3.Write on the right {That way you can use the left side of the pages for teacher notes, partner conferencing, or student revisions}

Copy your WNB norms on bright cardstock and tape them inside the cover of every WNB. Gold star for you if you can tape them down with the same packing tape you used for the cover. These are now a reference for students ALL YEAR.

*Start 5-10 minute quick writes using simple writing prompts
During the first weeks you really want students to start feeling comfortable writing in the WNB, and not dreading WNB time, so simple “What’s happening in this picture?”, “My top 10 favorite foods”, or “Make a list of as many red items as you can think of.” are good types of prompts to use.

Back to School Writing Activity #2: Make Rivers to Generate Ideas for Writing

“Stones in the River” is an activity you can use anytime during the school year, but it’s especially useful during the first week (and even the first day!).  Students can come back to the “Rivers” they create during this activity over and over again as they think of new people, places, things, or events to add or to help them when they feel stuck for writing ideas.

If you’ve ever had a student say they have nothing to write about, and you would like a “go to” response – make rivers! Want more details? You can find step by step instructions for the Stones in the River activity HERE.

Back to School Writing Activity #3: Read a Mentor Text that Inspires Writing Ideas

An excellent mentor text for writing at the beginning of the year is Mem Fox’s Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (affiliate link). It’s all about memories! This book is a perfect mentor text to start generating writing ideas because as we start writing personal narratives we are really just talking about translating our memories from our head to the page.

In this book Wilfrid Gordon goes searching for memories for sweet Miss Nancy who has none of her own and learns that memories can come in many forms: something you remember, something warm, something from long ago, something that makes you cry, something that makes you laugh, and something more precious than gold.

Here are a few ideas of what you can do with this book:

*Spend one day on each type of memory from the book.  Have students brainstorm a list of ideas they have that would fit with that type of memory (1 day on “warm” memories, 1 day on “long ago” memories, 1 day on “something that makes you cry” memories, etc.).

Just be prepared to hear the phrase “When I was a baby . . .” 700 times on “long ago” memory day.

*Have students fold a paper into 6 parts and label each part of the page with a different type of memory as defined in the book. Then they can draw a picture or make a list of memories they have that fit with each type of memory in the book.

*Listen to the book on tape (you can find an online recording here) and pause as the characters in the book define what a memory means to them. Brainstorm lists in WNBs of each type of memory.

*Ask students to bring an item from home that symbolizes a memory they have.  Have them write the story this object represents.

Do you have any favorite first week(s) writing activities or lessons?  I would LOVE to hear all about them!  Tell me about them in the comments below!

Have a fab day Super Teacher!

One Comment

  1. mary Bruce says:

    I love the ideals for student writing journals. Thanks for sharing.

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