It’s a great feeling to know that you’re teaching your students important study skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. The best way to make the writing process as painless as possible is to start teaching young children proper scaffolding techniques at an early stage of their academic careers. When students learn to conquer their writing assignments with ease, they’ll take those writing skills with them wherever they go for the rest of their lives.


While some students may be able to free-write with minimal direction, most students will create better work if they have a bit more structure. Learning scaffolding methods in elementary school will better prepare them for success in their later academic career, and being able to self-structure will help them convey their ideas clearly and in a logical order.

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Brainstorming uses a relaxed, informal set of guidelines to engage lateral thinking and creative problem-solving. It allows people to come up with ideas that may range from irrelevant to obvious and even outlandish. Using these initial ideas as a starting point, they can be expanded into original, creative efforts, or as a new starting point to brainstorm even more ideas.

Activities to Try

Have students brainstorm ideas for their writing individually, in groups or as a class. The brainstorming sessions don’t have to match up with how the assignment they’re brainstorming for will be completed—in fact, it can be useful to do individual brainstorming before beginning a group project or brainstorming as a class before having students work on individual projects.

  • Brainstorm using different techniques like making lists, collecting pictures to create mood boards or combining the two techniques and trying mind maps.
  • Use this worksheet to help students organize their ideas and stay on track while working.
  • Keep track of your students’ past brainstorming sessions and don’t hesitate to bring them out again in the future if you need a quick list of ideas for another assignment.

Recommended Read Pre-Writing Worksheets: Introducing Brainstorming and Ideation to Elementary Students

Writing Checklistediting-checklist

A worksheet that covers all of the components of a self-edit is especially helpful for younger students who aren’t yet fluent in the entire process of writing and editing.

Having a writing checklist that lists all the most important points to cover to be sure that a piece of writing is ready for grading is useful for both the students and the teacher; you give your students all the information they need to be successful so that they can take responsibility for their own success.

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Self-editing is a valuable skill for anyone to have, regardless of where their life takes them. Everything from a text message to a presentation at a board meeting is improved by making sure the topic is supported by the text.

The writing needs to be clear and to the point, and spelling and grammatical mistakes should be kept to a minimum. This requires a clear understanding of the purpose of the writing, the expected format of the writing, a sense of logic, how one sentence leads to the next and a focus on the topic at hand.

Activities to Try

  • Use a worksheet to help students become familiar with the basics of editing. Spelling and grammar corrections are programmed into every writing app they’ll use but not all of them are able to edit for clarity, tone and style.
  • Put up a paragraph for the whole class to read and have the class take turns calling out edits. Make sure the paragraph has spelling and grammar errors in addition to more advanced errors like clashing formal/informal word choice, unclear sentences and topics that are not supported by the writing.
  • Have students trade papers and fill out the writing checklist for each other’s work during writing assignments. You can also have students do more in-depth edits on each other’s work like removing unnecessary words or writing improved sentences.
  • Assign points for each item on the checklist they find as they are editing their own work. Have students give themselves points for checking off the item the first time through, and also let them get points for checking off the item after making edits. You can require a “minimum score” before the work can be submitted for a final grade.

Recommended Read Writing and Editing Checklists for Elementary Schoolers

Writing Starterswriting-starters

Sometimes the hardest part of an assignment is getting started! Even if your students have notes and worksheets full of ideas they want to write about, they may be stuck on trying to think up the perfect beginning.

Whether it’s lack of confidence in their writing, fear of failure or a convenient way to procrastinate from doing the work, it can be useful to have a few good opening lines tucked in your pocket to get the blank page over with. If students seem hesitant to commit, remind them that they can always change the beginning later.

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Writing starters will help students push past their insecurities and build confidence in their writing. While it can be easy to become overwhelmed by thinking about how much work needs to be done, the best way to decrease the amount is to do some of the work.

Once the seal is broken by writing anything, most students will continue writing with less mental resistance and will find a pace and rhythm that works for them. It can be a good idea to encourage students to choose their own favorite ways to start different types of writing, then they’ll never have to contend with writer’s block that comes from the lack of a place to start.

Activities to Try

  • Give students a writing prompt and have them come up with five beginnings that could be used for a written assignment about the topic. You can choose from current events, subjects you’re currently studying in class or nonsense stories about made-up characters.
  • Timed free-writes can help students overcome their inability to write by getting them used to writing about different topics for short blocks of time. There’s not much time to think about it in advance and a focus on quantity over quality will teach students the importance of writing now and editing later.
  • Have students write down beginnings they like. Whether it’s from a novel or an article on a website, having good models to base their own work upon will help them with their own writing in the future.
  • Make a shared class document where the whole class can add their favorite beginnings to share with their peers. Seeing examples of what other students like will help expose everyone to new ideas and might even result in the class creating their own favorite beginnings for different class assignments throughout the year.

Main Ideamain-idea-worksheet

A riff on the idea of a paragraph outline, this worksheet helps students stay on topic by putting the topic right in the middle of the page and then connecting it to important details that radiate out from the center.

This method of visualizing the topic can be useful for visual learners who enjoy outlining with mind maps and other more abstract methods of consolidating ideas, while still working for students that prefer to organize their thoughts more linearly in a standard outline structure.

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Main idea structure encourages students to develop their note-taking skills and their abilities to summarize information. It can also help them organize their thoughts to present the information clearly to unfamiliar audiences and can build on skills learned from brainstorming.

Additionally, using the structure from this worksheet as a format for note-taking can assist students in memorizing information and studying more effectively, especially if they gravitate to more visual learning styles rather than standard notes.

Activities to Try

  • Use this worksheet as a knowledge check before starting a new topic as a way to identify potential areas that need more focus or areas that are already well understood.
  • Have the class use the worksheet as a way to summarize a book the class is studying or a video that you watch.
  • Use the worksheet as a quick and dirty biography tool to highlight the main accomplishments and discoveries of the biography subject.
  • Students can also use this worksheet as a basis for telling stories about themselves, with the main topic in the center and supporting details filled out to give more information.

Recommended Read Collaborative Writing Activities for Elementary Students

Word Listsword-lists-2nd-3rd-grade

At the 3rd grade level, it’s important to expand beyond the usual vocabulary quizzes and come up with activities that will help students learn new words while also being fun and engaging. 3rd graders tend to have a good grip on many vocabulary words, and they also have the skills to learn about new words independently.

Nouns have lost their mystery and this is when students are moving into more esoteric areas of study, such as adjectives and adverbs—which is convenient, because adjectives and adverbs tend to be fun and engaging. You can use this worksheet which contains a combination of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs for inspiration!

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Having a good vocabulary increases a person’s ability to be understood by others because it allows them to use more specific and precise words (compare “radish” vs “vegetable”). This specificity naturally improves your students’ quality of writing and, in a wonderful learning feedback loop, the act of writing is one of the best ways to develop vocabulary at a young age.

One way to incentivize students to care about writing is to publish their work into a classbook using one of Studentreasures’s FREE classbook publishing kits. Think about it: all of your students could become published authors! Now that’s something to be proud of, whether you’re the student, the parent or the teacher.


Activities to Try

  • Assign your students a list of five to ten different adjectives and verbs and have them use those words in a short story. The sillier the words, the sillier the story! Bonus: the focus on adjectives will also help them improve their descriptive vocabulary.
  • Find or write a Mad Libs-style story with enough blanks for the number of students in your class. For homework, assign each student a type of word (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) corresponding to one of the blanks. The next day, collect the words, fill in the blanks and read the story.
  • Pick a large word (science topics are good for this, try something like “photosynthesis” or “geothermal”) and have students try to guess what it is by analyzing the different parts of the word and what those parts mean.
  • Ask students to seek out new words over the weekend, when you read a story, during math, etc. Get them into the habit of looking for new words and then learning about the words by looking them up.
  • Have students keep a list of new words throughout the year. The list should include the word, a short definition, where the student learned the word and any other information about the word that they think is interesting. This is a fun mini-project to keep up with by having students find and add a certain number of words every week.

Learning how to brainstorm, organize, and conquer their writing assignments is a skill that your students will use for the rest of their lives—and their high school teachers will be so grateful that they’re already pros at this stuff!

Even though students won’t continue to use these specific worksheets as they progress through their academic career, they’ll still continue to use the skills they’ve learned from the worksheets with them whether they realize it or not.

For more lesson plans, worksheets and other helpful creative writing resources for your classroom, check out our online Teacher’s Lounge and be sure to sign up for your free classbook publishing kit!