Maximizing the Minutes {Writing}

Well, well, well...I'm FINALLY back for the third installment in this series!

All Posts in This Series:

Today's post is all about how I maximize the first few minutes of our writing block to squeeze in essential skills to build upon.

First, I must say that I am a HUGE believer in oral language and its affect on writing.  How many times have you had a student not know how to get started on an idea/topic?  If you can first get them TALKING about the topic, it will help so much to spark the WRITING.  If you've purchased any of my writing units, you'll know that I almost always include discussion cards - whether we're working on narratives, opinions, or expository....I get them talking about ideas first.  This is helpful to all students, but especially those who struggle with ideas.

You may also know that I'm a HUGE fan of Whole Brain Teaching.  Did you know that they also put a huge emphasis on oral language and hand gestures for "air punctuation"?

Take a peek at this video of a first grade class creating an "on the spot" (unrehearsed) oral essay.

So, what do I do at the beginning of my writing block to help build oral language and story telling? There are two quickies that make a huge impact.

These little "Think, Talk, Teach" prompts from Christina DeCarbo are perfect for a one-minute talk.  I ask my students one question per day at the beginning of our writing block.  They partner up and take turns answering the question.

Students are required to answer the question in a complete sentence by "borrowing" words from the question.  Each question requires students to use a particular conjunction to join ideas in forming a more complex sentence.  So, in the sample above, students would not be allowed to answer "quietly" instead they would answer with something like, "We walk in the hallways with our hands by our sides and on the third tile."

These oral questions, when done daily, provide a very quick but valuable practice of speaking in complete, detailed sentences...adding in air punctuation is a bonus!  The habit of complete sentences and punctuation will gradually transfer to students' writing.  #happyteacher

The next four minutes of the start of our writing block is where I sneak in some inferring practice, along with storytelling.  Each day I project a photograph on our board from the fabulous Jen Jones.

The pictures are engaging and require critical thinking and inferring.  

Students continue to work with a partner as they talk about what the "story" of the picture is - what has been going on, what will happen next, etc.  They are basically forming a story around the picture.

It's amazing to listen to their creativity develop as they get more experience with "oral storytelling" and to then see it transfer into their writing.

So, that's it!  That's how I maximize the first five-minutes of my writing block.  Next up will be word study and how I use those first few minutes to build vocabulary.


  1. Yayy!!! I love this!! :) Thank you!! Great ideas!

  2. Oh wow... I have Miss DeCarbo's cards, too (♥ them) and this just sparked SO many new ideas for using them! Awesome post - thank you!! Jen

  3. I've always encouraged a lot of oral language in my classroom to prep for writing, but reading this post and others by Miss DeCarbo has helped me to be more intentional about it. Thanks so much!
    Laughter and Consistency

  4. Those are really great ideas- I do a picture prompt most days as well. I like the idea of having a discussion question each day!


  5. I love these packs!! I need to remember to use them more :)
    ☼ Jen
    Teacher by the Beach

  6. Wow! So glad I read this post! That is a great idea! I am off to purchase them both! Thanks for always sharing such useful ideas!


  7. What a great video! Was this a teacher from your site? Does she have any other videos? Thanks for sharing Amanda!

  8. I found who the video was from- Sorry! Do you follow Writer's Workshop, or do you add all your own plans? If I purchase your writing packs, will they work if I follow Writer's Workshop?

    1. I do Writer's Workshop, but in my own style. :)


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