The Write Beginning

The Write Beginning


Kid writing and having funGetting students into their writing can be a challenging task—one made simpler if they have a clear idea as to where to begin. The research and writing team behind Getting to the Core of Writing and Fostering Writing in Today’s Classroom offers a practical, doable, and engaging activity to support writing foundations. Give it a try!

What You Need

  • chart paper
  • markers
  • pens or pencils and paper


What You Do

  1. Remind students that we are experts on the things that happen in our lives, and that many authors write about those things.
  2. Explain to students that an expert is someone who is knowledgeable about a topic. Have students turn and talk to partners about some of the experiences the class has shared together.  Provide time for students to talk.
  3. Write the title “Our Expert List” on a sheet of chart paper. Have students share the experiences they discussed and list them on the chart paper.  Tell students that they are experts on those topics because they have experienced them.  Explain to students that these are ideas that they can use as writing topics.
  4. Remind students that they have had many individual experiences. Ask students to think of ideas for their personal expert lists.  Encourage students to have at least five ideas.  Provide approximately two minutes for students to gather their ideas.
  5. As students work, rotate among them, asking questions and facilitating student ideas. Remember to make anecdotal notes to share ideas with the class.  Notice and engage those students who are reluctant.
  6. Point out examples of students adding worthy ideas to their expert lists. Ask selected students to share with the class.  This helps promote ideas for other students.
  7. Ask students to meet with a writing partner and share the best items on their expert lists. Encourage students to give a couple of ideas to their writing partners and get a couple of ideas from their partners.
  8. At home or on future occasions, have students look for ideas of things that can be added to their expert lists. Use the attached “My Expert List” as a guide and prompt.

Click here for "My Expert List."

Encourage students to add to this list throughout the year.  Students who have broad interests and wide-ranging lists rarely say, “I don’t have anything to write about!”

Excerpted from Getting to the Core of Writing, Level 3, pages 77-79, Shell Education

Your Turn!

What is your best tip for helping students generate ideas for writing?


Author bio

Jan McNeel, M.A.Ed.

Jan McNeel, M.A.Ed., Educational Leader

Jan McNeel, M.A.Ed., is a forty-year veteran of education and leader of staff development throughout West Virginia and Maryland. Formerly a Reading First Cadre Member for the West Virginia Department of Education and Title I classroom and Reading Recovery teacher, Jan consults with schools and districts across the state. Jan’s studies of literacy acquisition at the Auckland University in New Zealand serve as the foundation of her expertise in reading and writing. Her practical strategies and useful ideas are designed to make reading and writing connections that are teacher-friendly and easy to implement. She has won awards for her excellent work as a master teacher and has presented her work in early literacy at state, regional, and national conferences.