Athletes warm up before practice, musicians warm up before a rehearsal–so why wouldn’t writers warm up before writing?
Warming up for writing means getting your mind ready to write. For some writers, that means recalling your most recent word solving or spelling strategies so that they are fresh on your mind when you need them. For other writers, that might mean doing something to generate ideas for content, and for others it might mean doing something to refresh your memory on where you left off.
Here are a few quick and easy warm up routines that some of your students might find helpful.
Reading the Word Wall or a Ring of High Frequency Words
In many K-2 classrooms, teachers introduce a handful of high frequency words each week, adding them a few at a time to a “word wall” displayed in the classroom for easy reference. Other variations include adding to a smaller personalized word wall or ring of index cards. If this a tool that exists in your classroom, kids can warm up for writing by reviewing the word wall words – then those words will be fresh on their mind as they write. They might simply read the words to themselves, or they might write them on a dry-erase board in different sizes, or they might do a word hunt, searching through their previous writing for word wall words. Anything that gets them reading and/or writing the words they’ve been studying will give them extra practice with the words and set them up for success with spelling those words when they encounter them in their work.
A Spelling or Conventions Checklist Warm Up
For some kids, there are a few particular conventions that they seem to have trouble with day in and day out. With things like writing in lower case (instead of a mix of upper and lower case), common spelling errors, or fogetting punctuation, daily reminders and routines can be very helpful. After all, most conventions are habits, and habits really aren’t developed in one single sitting, or in just one minilesson. Instead, repetition is what forms a habit.
A short checklist highlighting just a few priorities for the indivdual student can help them self-monitor their own habits. Reviewing the checklist as a warm up to writing will put those conventions at the front of the writer’s mind as they begin to write, helping them incorporate the items on the checklist into their writing during writing, instead of always waiting until after writing to go back and check for mistakes.
Doodling or Drawing
For some writers, doodling or drawing helps them get ideas for what to write. It can also serve as a nice transition from an unrelated activity (recess, a math game, a science project…) into writing workshop. Ambient music or white noise often goes along nicely with doodling, and can have a calming effect, in addition to helping kids get ready to do their best work.
Talking or Rehearsing Aloud
Another way that writers often warm up for writing is by talking… talking A LOT. This might take the form of talking into a device to record all their great thinking, or talking to another person to brainstorm ideas, or rehearse a story idea to see how it sounds out loud. Talking might involve a lot of drama and expression, perhaps even role-playing different parts, or taking on different voices–or it might be done quietly and individually, whispering to oneself and sketching out a few ideas for what to write.
Re-reading What You’ve Already Written
Adults might do this without even thinking twice about it, but to novice writers it may not occur to them to reread what they’ve already written before they get started on new work. You can reread with many different lenses – reading your own work out loud helps you hear how it sounds and may help you discover parts to add on to, or shorten up. Rereading for spelling or punctuation from previous days work is helpful because you have fresh eyes for finding your own mistakes when you’ve taken a break from it. And rereading old finished work can help you generate new ideas for your next piece of writing.
Taking a Look at Some Mentor Texts
As a student, I would often get so carried away with a project or a piece of writing that I would lose sight of what the actual assignment was supposed to be. Now, I’ve developed a routine of looking at examples nearly every time I write. Sometimes I look to published, professional authors, but often I look to student writing, or writing created by friends or colleauges. This not only helps me stay focused on what I’m “supposed ” to be doing, I find it helps me generate new ideas, and gets my mind ready to write. Sometimes I look at a mentor text and I think, “Oh! I could use the same strategy in my work!” Other times I think, “Oooh. I would not do it that way. I think I’ll do it this way instead.” Either way, revisiting an example (or mentor text) is a helpful for routine for a lot of writers — especially those of us who benefit from clear expectations and focus on the task at hand.
Putting Warm Up Routines into Practice
In the classroom, each of your students may benefit from warming up for writing in a different way. In your next unit of study, near the beginning of the unit, perhaps you’ll introduce a few of your own favorite warm up routines that students can choose from, and invite them to invent their own routine. Then, each day at at the start of independent writing time, you can remind all your students to warm up, each in their individualized way. You may want to have a set ending time for warming up, signaling to students to stop warming up and start writing — or you may find that students transition into their work on their own and don’t need the signal.
For the writers in your classroom that need a little time to get settled in, a warm up routine might be just the thing that was missing.