The beginning of the year is all about establishing routines. Writing workshop is no exception. Very young students will need to know where to find lined paper in your classroom. Older students may decorate a particulate notebook for writing. As you create a writing friendly environment, consider reading Helen Lester’s autobiography Author: A True Story to your students and adding a “Fizzle Box” to your collection of writing supplies.
In Author: A True Story, Helen Lester, the popular children’s author of Tacky the Penguin and Me First, talks about her career as a writer. Her declaration that she began at age three with scribbled grocery lists that looked the same right-side up and upside down validates the early writing efforts of all young children. She also shares the challenges of overcoming a learning disability called “mirror writing.” Lester’s humorous account of her perseverance to become a published writer will delight young writers. She is honest about the effort it takes to write a good story, providing inspiration to students who also struggle. Her description of a “Fizzle Box” where she deposits ideas for future use can became a great resource in your own classroom.
After reading Lester’s autobiography, introduce a “Fizzle Box” of your own. You can use a plain recipe box or a pretty container for boxed greeting cards. Any box with a flip out lid will do. Show it to the class and then distribute index cards to your students. Spend time as a class brainstorming future writing ideas. In the primary classroom, emphasize that everyday experiences can make great writing topics: soccer games, vacations, field trips, picnics, playdates, etc. With older elementary students, encourage the students to go a step further with humorous experiences, lessons learned, firsts, favorites, siblings, embarrassing moments, etc.
Ask each student to write down one idea on the index card for the classroom “Fizzle Box.” Keep your box in an easily accessible place. The next time you have a student who “can’t think of anything to write about” during writing workshop, ask him or her to flip through the index cards in the classroom “Fizzle Box.” Since many of the ideas inside were generated during classroom discussion, students may find their creative juices flowing the minute they pick up a card.