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(Writing) Center Time for Older Students

Whenever I used to hear the words “Center Time” I immediately thought about early childhood classrooms.  However, that notion changed in 2008 when I created a Poetry Station for my fourth graders.  The Poetry Station was created for students to use during the “morning work” period of the school day.  It was a choice, not a requirement to do work at the Poetry Station.  However, most students opted to utilize the Poetry Station that spring using the mentor poems it contained to help inspire poems of their own.

Over the course of the past two years, I’ve thought a bit about how to create writing-related stations (or dare I say centers) for older students.  Until recently, I’ve come up empty-handed.  Everything I seemed to think of either didn’t align with the workshop philosophy (i.e., the stations I thought of relied heavily on worksheets) or seemed juvenile.  However, I recently received a catalog from Chronicle Books, which has an incredible selection of writing-related items as part of their stock.  One of the writerly items they recently sent me a review copy of is Jamie Cat Callan’s The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain.  This Toolbox contains the makings of three stations/centers in one little box.  The games and exercises in Callan’s set will help get the words flowing from the brain to the pen to the paper, especially for students who have trouble with traditional collecting strategies.  Additionally, if you give your students academic choice time, then this is an excellent choice time activity for children to engage in.

Here’s a peek at what the inside of The Writer’s Toolbox looks like.  Be sure to scroll over each picture for a detailed caption of what’s pictured.

I suggest reading the booklet, which will teach you how to use the exercise sticks, spinner palettes, and cards.  You might want to eradicate some of the sticks and cards based upon the age of the students in your classroom (e.g., some of them are inappropriate for upper elementary school students).  Additionally, you’ll want to take some time to show your students how to use all of the items in the Toolbox (after you’ve created some writing of your own with each of the items pictured in the slide show above) so they can use it independently.

Whether you choose to separate the items in The Writer’s Toolbox into one station or three, this item will be a welcome addition to your classroom to help reluctant writers, as well to keep all of your young writers writing during academic choice time.