Inspiring primary students to write can be challenging. One of the best ways I have found to help them get started is by reading aloud The Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk.
This engaging picture book tells the story of a mouse that lives secretly in the public library. He loves to read and eventually discovers he can write and illustrate books as well. He shelves his completed books with other books in the library. After children and librarians read them, they wonder who is writing them. They leave a note asking to meet the author. Not wanting to be discovered, but wanting to encourage kids to write, the Library Mouse makes a box and writes a note explaining that people can look inside to meet the author. When students look inside the box they see themselves.
To help make the book interactive, I read it to students and tell them I found a box in the classroom that day. Then I bring out a box I made (using a Kleenex box or a wrapped shoe box). They each take a turn looking inside it and as they see themselves, I say, “ Jose, you’re an author” or “Linda, you’re an author.” Then I hand them a little book and they go to their desks and begin writing about anything they want.
The little books are two, three, four, or five pages of blank (or partially lined) copy paper folded in half and stapled on the side. The number of pages in the books depends on the age of the writer. Students are free to write how-to books, fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, and more. They choose the the topics and the genres because they are the authors. They can illustrate the books as well.
Using this format, I have watched numerous students and many reluctant writers become young authors. The power is in the choices they are given, the support and encouragement they receive from you and their peers, and the mentor texts you read aloud in class. Allow students to write about topics of their choice. Allow them to come to you with questions, but avoid telling them what they should write about and definitely avoid correcting their spelling and grammatical errors. (Their mistakes are your next mini-lessons.) The goal is to get them writing so truly let them be the authors.
Keep in mind that your words will inspire their love of writing or kill it. Look for every good thing your writers are doing (no matter how tiny) and celebrate it. Plan for a few minutes every day for writers to share their accomplishments (no matter how small). You can have students share with a partner so everyone gets a chance. You can have them read a page of their stories in a group of three or four. Large group sharing (with one student reading aloud and the rest of the class listening) is another way to give students an audience. Be sure to read excellent picture books aloud and notice and point out a few things the author did to make the book interesting.
Exposing students to quality books and allowing them time to write creatively will keep them writing for the love of writing rather than writing to meet standards or prepare for tests. With time, you will notice students asking to write more, developing confidence in themselves, and meeting writing standards while loving writing.