Some people hate it, others love it. Over the years, I’ve found that the students who dislike writing do so because they don’t have enough options.
When I work on writing with my sixth graders, I like to give them as much choice as possible. Because of that, I use something called a writing menu. At the beginning of every other month I give the kids a menu with 12-16 writing choices. The assignments are designated as appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
Appetizers are quick writing assignments, things that can be fully answers in 1-3 paragraphs. Entrees are your standard 5 paragraph essay and are graded as summative assessments. They are required to complete a pre-write, first draft, peer review sheet, and final draft for all entrees. They need to complete 3 of the 4 choices. Entrees are really the “meat and potatoes” (Ha!) They are designed to be detailed and to make the kids think a little deeper. I always link it to whatever novel we are reading in literature. The “dessert” assignments tend to be more fun. They are either super creative or involve technology in some way. ( We are a 1:1 iPad classroom)
In total, at the end of the month, the kids must complete 9 of the options with three of them being entrees. We only use a writing menu every OTHER month because in the “off months”, after some feedback, we spend time making our writing stronger and working on revisions.
I’m fortunate to be able to have the time to work in small literacy groups and conference with the kiddos each week, otherwise I think I would adjust the procedure a bit. We also spend a lot of time giving each other feedback on our writing. At the end of the month, we have portfolios with 9 writing samples for each student.
We keep ALL writing that we do in binders for the year. I have found that it’s important for the students to see how they have grown from August to June, especially the reluctant writers.
I love hearing the discussions the kids have about what they’re working on during literacy group time. I love hearing them give each other feedback on traits such as organization and sentence fluency.
Writing menus aren’t for the faint of heart now. Keeping track of 207 writing assignments and individual student growth ( which is why we keep all drafts) takes some organization skills. This is why it is very helpful to conference weekly with students because really, by the end of the month, I already have a very good idea of what they’ve written.
The writing menus I use are tailored to things we’re talking about in class, but you are welcome to see a copy of what we worked on in September here. September Writing Menu as well as a copy of the writing rubric that I use most often Writing Rubric.