June 29, 2016

Very First Writing Wednesday

I am very excited to be joining Lit with Lyns for her very first ever Writing Wednesday linky party! Writing is something that is near and dear to my heart in my ELA classrooms. Perhaps it's because although I was a very good writer throughout my own schooling, I was frustrated because I did not know what made me a good writer. I was never taught to write just directed to write and then graded on it. Thank goodness I was an avid reader, an enjoyable pastime that unknowingly gave me a writing foundation.

Because of my frustration, I am careful to TEACH my students HOW TO write, providing explicit instruction, repeated practice and support, and practical applications. With middle school students there is a shift to more nonfiction/technical writing than in previous years. Much of it is focused on extended response and providing text evidence.

PQA is the first writing lesson that I cover with my incoming fifth grade Language Arts students and review with my returning sixth and seventh grade students. PQA or Put the Question in the Answer is an acronym to help my students remember how to phrase answers to questions. I am very particular with student responses at this level. It is no longer sufficient to just give an answer that is only a few words. I expect them to be able to elaborate, cite text evidence, and write in standard English for nearly every answer. PQA is the first step in helping them achieve this expectation.

All of my classes utilize an interactive notebook for Language Arts. The very first foldable to be inserted is for PQA. An anchor chart is displayed on the board and mini charts sit on the tables to saturate my students with this important strategy. You can read more about this in a previous post and download a PQA notebook foldable for use in your own classroom. Here's a sneak peak at this year's anchor chart displayed in my new "Scrabble" theme. This will appear on all the tables in my classroom displayed in small stand-up frames that I purchased from IKEA (see previous blog post linked above).

After instruction, and loads of practice, my students generally remember to address their responses in this manner, at least while they are with me. However, my students see many teachers throughout the day, and for whatever reason, when they leave my class to go to another (Social Studies, Math, Science, etc.) they often "forget" to implement strategies taught in my class in another. Grrr! You have probably felt this pain a time or two yourself. I don't necessarily want to impose on the content area teachers to "reteach" my lessons nor to display my anchor charts for student reminders, but I do want my kiddos to carry this skill over into everything that they do. So, I came up with a solution: pencil topper mini-anchor charts. My students can carry these friendly reminders with them to other classrooms and hopefully be reminded to PQA away from me.

I created these toppers for many of the major skills and strategies that I teach in my Language Arts classes. The complete file will soon be available in my TpT Store, but until then I'm sharing the PQA topper as a forever freebie for you.

Here is what the PQA pencil topper looks like.
How does it work?

Simple and effective (I have used pencil toppers previously for various skills), just the way I like it, and I hope you do as well! Something else that I hope you like is this a-MAZE-ing little worksheet that I just created. I recently stumbled upon Hidesy's Clipart on TpT and discovered some wonderful maze graphics. I added some cute images from Educlips and a few text boxes to come up with a PQA practice sheet that doubles as an interest inventory. I'm planning on using this during the first few days of the new school year with my sixers.

To download a freebie INB foldable for PQA, click HERE.
To download the freebie PQA pencil topper, click HERE.
To download the freebie PQA practice sheet, click HERE.
To read more Writing Wednesday posts, click HERE.


  1. THANK YOU so much for these awesome freebies! They are exactly what I'll need for my 6th graders this fall!


  2. THANK YOU! Moving to fifth and since it's been a while that I've been in upper elementary, I appreciate everything that I can use. The maze looks like fun!

  3. It looks like I now have a plan for my first writing lesson! This is AWESOME! Thank you so much for linking up w/ us and for sharing these great freebies! I've downloaded them all and can't wait to use!
    Lit with Lyns

  4. Great ideas here to "put the question in the answer" - no wonder students love this! Thanks! Ellen


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