5 Ways to Build Better Writers

Ways to help teach writing

As teachers, we all want to help our students become stronger writers. However, knowing exactly HOW to build better writers can often be a challenge.  Since teaching writing has always been one of my favorite things to do, I'd thought I'd share 5 ways to build better writers in the classroom.  Speaking of sharing, I'm also giving away 2 sets of FREE WRITING RESOURCES in this post! (You'll find the links below!)

I'm not sure about you, but I feel like in our standards-based world, creative writing has gone by the wayside.  And nothing makes me sadder!  Creative writing activities are my absolute favorite way to build better writers.  That's because they are quick, targeted, and usually a ton of fun.  Do you know what happens when students do something that is fun?  That's right!  They begin to actually enjoy it.  Gasp!  Just imagine your students excitedly writing!  It's a wonderful thing!  Creative writing demystifies writing.  It builds students' confidence in writing and develops targeted skills that can be transferred to everyday writing.

One easy way to bring creative writing activities into the classroom is by designating a day of the week or month as a creative writing day.  I called this day "Random Writes" in my classroom.  We did a random write activity after every spelling test.  Kids went nuts over the activities!  

Free creative writing lesson.  Story rolling activity.

I know what you're thinking...you're wondering how you can get your hands on some fun creative writing activities, right?  I've got great news for you!  First of all, I've put together a set of five FREE lessons that are sent right to your inbox when you sign up for the Brain Waves newsletter here.

If you're looking for more activities, you can find a set of 10 lessons in this resource.

Oh my!  I LOVE a good writing mini-lesson!  Mini-lessons are brief lessons that can demonstrate writing workshop procedures, explore writers' craft, and develop writing skills and strategies.  They are powerful nuggets of instruction that can drastically change students' writing.  Mini-lessons can be taught in response to a need that you're noticing in students' work or you might align them to a particular genre of writing.  I like to keep the lessons fairly short, and often they're great to teach in small groups!

When designing mini-lessons, here's what I like to include:
An introduction of the topic.  This includes a definition and an overview of the skill or strategy.

Examples. When teaching a mini-lesson about writing it only makes sense that you'll share examples of that skill.  I think it's particularly fun to gather a few text examples and then have students vote on the best one.  This simple activity gets students thinking critically about writing.

Writing mini lesson  ideas

More detail.  After students have a sense of the skill, it's time to dive deeper.  This is when I provide additional information about the topic.

Guided Practice.  By now students have a sense of the skill, so it's time to give it a try.  I like to create writing tasks that they can practice.  The easiest way to do this is provide samples of writing that students need to makeover using the skill.

Apply.  Finally, I like to close mini-lessons with a longer writing prompt or if students are working through a writing unit, I like to have them improve their current piece of writing using the new skills they practiced.  

How to teach writing mini-lessons

If you're on the hunt for print-and-teach writing mini-lessons, then you'll love this set of 10 lessons.  

They address everything from writing leads to adding voice to writing dialogue.  Check them out HERE.

Develop students' skills in writing

In Ralph Fletcher's book, A Writer's Notebook, he explains that a writer's notebook "gives you a place to live like a writer, not just in school during writing time, but wherever you are, at any time of day."  

He encourages everyone to find a simple notebook and get writing.  I love that!  Just like that, writing becomes a part of everyday life.  It's not tied to a genre or an assignment.  Instead, inside the writer's notebook students get to just write.  It's like an artist's sketchbook.  

Here's the best part.  When we encourage our students to write regularly, they'll amass a ton of ideas.  Then, when it comes time to choose topics in class, it's as easy as thumbing through their notebooks.  If you're thinking about implementing writer's notebooks in your classroom, be sure to check out Fletcher's book.  He has a ton of ideas.  And, since students are going to need an actual notebook, I love these reporter's notebooks

They're small enough to carry around and the empty page is way less intimidating!

Another idea is combine writer's notebooks with writing units.  For instance, in this Memoir Writing Unit, students spend five days responding to prompts in a writer's notebook.  

Then, when it comes time to pick a topic for the memoir, it's super easy!  Plus, they already have a head start on the writing process.  You can add a writer's notebook component to any writing unit!

Have you ever heard the expression, "good writers are good readers?"  Well, in my experience, that's absolutely true.  Reading excellent books and stories is a wonderful way to build students' writing skills.  The more we expose students to strong mentor texts and entertaining pieces of writing, the more they will be able to see what to emulate and imitate in their own writing.

One way to get students to pay attention to the craft of writing while reading is with a simple post-it note.  Give each student a post-it note and ask them to select a sentence (or two) from the text that proves that the writer is skilled.  Then, give students a chance to read and record their examples.  Finally, have students share the sentences they chose with the class.  Discuss students' examples and ways that they might emulate the author's style in their own writing.  You could even assemble all the post-it notes onto a bulletin board for display.

Another way to get students to pay attention to writing while reading is with this FREE set of bookmarks.  Each bookmark is designed to encourage students to investigate the craft of writing while reading a book or story.  

Bookmarks about writing

As students read, they need to jot down examples of strong writing from the text.  The idea is to help students recognize and celebrate phenomenal writing.

If we want to build better writers, then we're going to need to create some engaging writing units. Here's the truth...if we don't provide students with writing topics that interest them, then getting them through the writing process is going to be a whole lot harder!  

That's why it's essential to craft units around interesting topics.  Some of my students' favorites are writing persuasive advertisements for a roller coaster that they design or descriptive paragraphs about imaginary pets like lions.

Oh, and the historic news article and 3D growth mindset research reports are always a hit.  The idea is make students actually WANT to write.

Another tip is to make sure that the writing units are focused and concise.  The easiest way to turn students off to writing is with a long, drawn-out writing unit.  That's why I like my units to be just ten days or two school weeks long.  Shorter units mean that it's easier to hold students' attention and they can write a variety of pieces all year long.

There you have it!  Five ways to build better writers.  I hope you've found a few ideas that you can use in your classroom!  Here are the links from today's post:

➽ Exclusive Freebie - Creative Writing Lessons (set of 5)
➽ 10 Creative Writing Lessons
➽ 10 Lessons to Build Better Writers
➽ Memoir Writing Unit (with writer's notebook)
➽ FREE Bookmarks
➽ All Writing Units

Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Beth

* This post contains affiliate links.

Free, Fun and Festive Valentine's Day Projects

If you're like me, you're always on the hunt for a fun and festive Valentine's Day project.  Today, I thought I'd share two FREE lessons that you can combine to make two different types of projects.  I've teamed up with my friend, Art with Jenny K.. to tell you all about them!

Here are the links to the resources you'll need for the projects:
Pop Art Heart (This is in the supporting documents of the video in Art with Jenny K.'s shop.)
Writing a Valentine's Day Rebus (You'll find this as a free download in my shop.)

Start both of these projects with the pop art heart designed by Art with Jenny K.  

Students will need to add patterns and designs inside the shapes of the heart.  Then, they can color in their patterns to make a unique Valentine heart.

Next, get students working on creating and writing a rebus valentine.  

Students will learn all about the rebus style of writing.  Then, they'll solve sample riddles before they brainstorm some ideas of their own.

Finally, they'll create their own Valentine message in the rebus-style of writing.  They should write their message on the final copy paper provided.

After students have finished their pop art heart and rebus valentine, it's time to get creative.  Students can create two different projects with their work.
1.  They can create a jumbo Valentine's Day card.
2.  Or, they can make a long Valentine's Day poster to display.

If students will be creating a jumbo card, they'll each need an 18" x 11" piece of construction paper (along with their pop art heart and rebus valentine.)  

Have them fold an 18" x 11" piece of construction paper in half.  Then, they can add the pop art to the cover.  Inside, they can glue the rebus message.  You can "amp" up the valentine with scrapbook paper, stickers, cut-outs, and lots of doodles and drawings.  Or, you might have students draw the pop art heart directly on the cover of the card.

Or, you might have students create a Valentine's Day poster with the pop art and rebus message.  Again, students will need a piece of 18" x 11" paper and their completed work.  On a piece of 18" x 11" paper, students can glue their heart and rebus.

Both projects make great gifts or classroom displays.  We hope you and your students enjoy combining the pop art hearts and their Valentine's Day rebuses to create fun and festive projects!

You can check our video all about these ideas HERE.

Looking for more Valentine's Day activities?  Check out these favorites...

Valentine's Day Fact Hunt and Doodle Infographic
Students collect 14 facts about Valentine's Day while they learn about its history, traditions around the world, and stats and figures.  Then, they turn their learning into a fun doodle infographic.

Valentine's Day Gift Tags
Here's a free set of Valentine's Day gift tags that you can add to school supplies and give to your own students.  For a fun twist, check out this video to learn how to turn the tags into stickers!

Valentine-Themed Creative Writing Lessons and Poetry
Check out this set of 5 Valentine-themed creative writing lessons.  These lessons help students practice skills like figurative language and parts of speech.  Students will be able to write creativity all February long!  

And, when you're ready for a little spring (after Valentine's Day), you might want to check out my favorite set of poetry analysis lessons.

More Pop Art Coloring Pages
Oh, and if your students fall in love with creating the pop art heart, find a bunch more pop art coloring pages here.  Or, combine reading and pop art with this set of Nonfiction Reading Comprehension Passages!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Mary Beth

Favorite Winter-Themed Lessons

I don’t know about you, but for me, the winter season always seems so busy!  Perhaps it's the holidays and celebrations or maybe it’s all the activities, but winter is a super busy time of year...especially in the classroom. With so many tasks, activities and traditions in our "real" lives, it can be hard to find the time to plan lessons for students. That's why I thought I'd take one thing off your "to do" list:  lesson planning! 

I've put together a round-up of winter-themed lessons and units that are just a download away from teaching.  Some ideas are specific to holidays and others are perfect for any winter day!

Here's a quick listing of the ideas I'm sharing today...
➽  FREE December Plan Book  and January Plan Book
➽  Winter Poem Analysis (5 poems)


Make the busyness of the winter months a whole lot easier with the December and January virtual plan books

Free ideas for December lesson planning.
The FREE virtual plan books are designed to provide inspiration and ideas for making teaching and learning a whole lot more fun!  You'll find lesson ideas and teaching tips & tricks for each month.  And the best part?  They’re free!  If you’re looking for a discounted set of units for both months (which means you won’t have to plan a thing), check out the December Unit Bundle and the January Unit Bundle.


Here are a few ideas that tap into students’ natural excitement about the winter holidays while keeping students learning!

Lesson plans for "A Christmas Carol"
This is one of my favorite units to teach...especially in December! This 8-day drama study includes absolutely everything you'll need to teach the play. There's a traditional version and a version for interactive notebooks!

Help students learn about holidays around the world and Christmas around the world with this fun research project.  Students research Christmas in different countries and then turn their research into festive gift boxes.
Research has never been more fun or interactive with this Christmas Around the World project! Students each research a different country. Then, they turn their learning into fun and festive gift boxes. It's the perfect way to keep students learning this month!

Teach friendly letter writing with this set of 6 engaging activities based on 8 letters from Santa's reindeer.
Tap into students’ natural excitement about the Christmas season with this fun, engaging, and super educational Reindeer Mail Mini-Unit! Filled with six activities that address critical ELA skills there is nothing “filler” about this unit! 


Check out these resources designed for the end-of-the-year.  The reflection can be completed before students head off to break or when they return to school.  And speaking of break, there’s a print-and-go resource for helping students learn over break too!

Help students reflect on their year with this personal reflection and infographic activity.
As the calendar year draws to a close, engage your students with this fun, creative and FREE Personal Reflection and Infographic Activity. Students will complete a reflection on their year. Then, they'll turn the significant moments from 2017 into an infographic. This is perfect to do before break!

Keep students learning while they are on winter break with these activities that they can complete over winter break.
Want to keep students learning while they are on winter break? It's easy with this Winter Break Project! The Tic-Tac-Snow Winter Break Project is filled with 9 learning activities that will have students reading, writing, and practicing critical thinking skills in unique and creative ways!


Here are two sets of lessons that are built around the winter season!

This resource contains five winter-themed learning centers for students to rotate through in small groups.
This brand-new resource is perfect to teach before the break or when students return to school in the new year. There's five winter-themed learning stations that target different reading comprehension skills.  Students even create a fun flip book and "build" a snowman at each learning center!

This winter, help your students cozy up to five winter poems in this engaging 5-day Poetry Analysis Unit.

This winter, help students cozy up to five winter poems with this engaging 5-day poetry analysis unit.  Take all the intimidation out of teaching and analyzing poetry with the interactive flip books designed for each poem.  Each poem has a winter-theme and aligns with four analysis tasks.

Speaking of poems, click here to find a set of Winter Poems that are perfect to read aloud!

Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Beth

Looking for fun lessons and units to teach all winter long?  Then, you're in luck!  I've rounded up my favorite ELA lessons for the winter season!

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