Do you use daily writing warm ups at the beginning of your writing class?  How can you make the most of them? 

Here are a suggestions to make them work for your students:

Are your students benefiting from writing warm ups or are they just busy work?  Here are some practical tips for getting the most from these.  And a free week's worth of interactive writing warm ups!

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Writing warm ups + timer

Here’s the scene:

Your students come into the classroom.  As they do every day, they work on a sentence or paragraph on the board — making corrections.  You review those corrections and discuss any questions.  After a lively discussion about semicolons, and then you move on to the lesson for the day or your writing workshop mini lesson.  But, wait!  There are only ten minutes left in class!

Please tell me that I’m not the only person to go on a semicolon tangent!

No matter what program you use to get your students warmed up, it’s easy to lose track of time. Students do have legitimate questions that they want clarified, but have you noticed that students are smart and can also derail your class with endless questions?!

Enter the timer!

When I started using a timer for warm ups, I found I used class time much more effectively!  You can adjust the time to meet the needs of your students.  Just because the timer goes off doesn’t mean you have to stop mid-sentence.  However, it helps tremendously in moving from one event to the next.

A small, simple timer can be stashed in your pocket, propped on your podium, or stuck on a metal door or desk (this one has a clip & magnet).

Use with your writing products

We’ve all see in (and probably said it!); you taught  students a concept, but when it comes to their writing, it’s as if they’ve never seen it before!  Teaching grammar, sentence structure, or editing skills in isolation doesn’t always transfer to student writing.

Try using writing warm ups that are connected to your writing products

Your standards can help you do this.  If students need to use a topic sentence, apply internal coherence, or use a variety of sentence structures as part of your standards, writing warm ups can show students what that means and offer an opportunity for them to make a correction or apply that skills when they are working on their own writing.

Applying warm up skills right away

Whether you’re using Daily Grams (which I LOVE, by the way) or another warm up activity (well — I LOVE this one too!), consider asking your students to apply a concept from the warm up right away.  If you can incorporate it into your mini lesson — even better.

For example, if your warm up addresses semicolons (okay!  I love those crazy punctuation marks!), have your students incorporate a semicolon in their writing workshop activity.

To extend the learning, have them identify their usage (circle or highlight) and then explain how they applied the skill and why it works.

You can assess the skill by having them record this on an exit card.

Create a resource book as you go

As students work on different writing warm ups, have them create a resource book for themselves.

Rather than expecting students to remember rules (how many times have I had to look up the rules for singular and plural indefinite pronouns?!), have them write a rule and an example in their notebooks.

You can extend this lesson by asking students to look for concepts in their reading.  Back to the semicolon, for example. 

Challenge students to find a semicolon in their independent or book club reading.  Have them add it to their resource book.  You can also ask them to record their findings on an index card and turn it in for extra credit or to display on a classroom bulletin board entitled, “What I found…”

This way, their resource books can serve as a true resource!

Teaching all the things

There are so many things to teach when it comes to ELA — can I get an “Amen!”

I believe, though, that it is beneficial for students to have multiple opportunities to practice skills rather than swap out the skill every day.

When it comes to warm ups, you may want your students to practice the same skill or set of skills for an entire week.  Especially if it is a complex concept like sentence structure.  Ask them to practice applying the different sentences types for an extended period of time, and then asking them to incorporate them into their writing project will deepen their understanding of the concept and increase the likelihood that they’ll be able to apply that skill independently in the future.

You can even add the skill to your rubric to help increase the opportunity for students to show mastery of the skill.

Daily writing warm ups to help students develop narrative writing skills.

If you need writing warm ups that can be connected to your writing products, you may want to take a look at these:

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What do you think?  What are the effective ways you use warm ups with your students?

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