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Monday, March 5, 2012

So many topics, so little time...

I am taking a class about nonfiction reading and writing right now with an amazing instructor.  We meet once per month and we are busy learning about different text types - everything from picture captions to reading responses to persuasive writing...so far.

I am also reading Talking, Drawing, & Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe and The Writing Workshop: Working Through the Hard Parts (And They're All Hard Parts) by Katie Wood Ray - both excellent books.

Because of this class and my current reading, I have been thinking a lot about topic selection for writers.  I have never before thought about how to teach my students how to select a topic to write about.  I have created idea lists with different topics they could write about with my students and I have done think alouds as I am writing during which I talk through which of two ideas I will write about that day.  But, I have never, in eleven years of teaching kindergarten, thought to show my students how to pick a topic.

After that thought hit me, another one, a bummer of a thought, hit me.  I'm not sure HOW to teach my kindergarten students how to choose a topic for writing.  I'm just beginning myself to stick my toe into the writing waters (through this SOLC) so I am learning too! 

So far, the only piece of advice I have to offer them is to look at the world around you.  There are often ideas for topics that pop into my head at random times now that I am considering myself more of a writer but that is awfully hard to explain to a five or six year old.

And so, I'm turning to you all...my new community of people...for some help.  How do you teach your students to select a topic?  How do you select your own topics?

Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom you have to offer!


  1. I teach middle school- 8th grade, so I use Nancie Atwell's idea of creating a place to keep a list of "Writing Territories." We do different idea generating activities from time to time (especially to get the list started), like heart maps, but basically it amounts to brainstorming about what matters to us.

    Instead of territories, a primary teacher friend of mine calls these "Writing Seeds."

    Georgia Heard's Heart Map would be a great place to start with kindergartners because they could even draw their important ideas. Ruth and Stacey have something on Heart Maps on their site, just do a search!

    1. Thanks for the tip...I will check out the heart map!

  2. Christy is so smart--I was going to suggest the heart map also. I think kindergarteners could draw pictures of what is close to their heart...those things that are important to them.

  3. I am really thinking that I might need my students to bring in some photos. I actually like the idea of the heart map in conjunction with some photos, maybe they create this collage and put it in their writing folder?

  4. Start keeping an anchor chart of ideas (add some graphics to help kids remember what those words are) and at various times when an idea strikes add to the chart. Get ideas from your read alouds. Have the kids talk, talk, talk. What you say you can write.

  5. Hmmm . . . good question. I know personally I think of all the possibilities and and then I choose the one that 'feels write' and I try it out. If the words flow, then that is the topic for the day. I think you question deserves some pondering. Thanks for asking it.