Monday, July 22, 2013

National Writing Project Day #11: Thought Museums & Writing Circles

 Hi Everyone!

I'm kind of bummed that I don't have anything to share for Monday Made It this hasn't been a very good crafting week for me.  But I've got some new ideas floating around in my head for next week (now all I need is the TIME to get to them!  :)

Today at UW-Milwaukee Writing Project, I learned about two things I had absolutely no idea what they were before today. Kelly, one of our two presenters today, shared her inquiry project on Thought Museums & Writing Circles.

First, Thought Museums

The concept behind this is absolutely GENIUS and it would be so easy to do in your classroom!  The idea with Thought Museums is to get students thinking and writing all at the same time.

Take a poster board and in the middle of the poster board, tape a quote, picture, poem, etc. along with a simple direction such as "What does this poem make you think of?" or "What questions do you have when you look at this picture?".  It is helpful to have about three or four different boards so there is some variety.

Students then walk around with a pencil/pen and write their response on the poster board and sign their name by their comment.  But because this is a museum, it has to be absolutely silent.  After about 5 minutes, students return to their seat and you share thoughts, common observations, themes, etc. from the poster boards. 

Here are some pictures of our Thought Museum today:

As always, I like to reflect on ways this can be used in my classroom (and yours!):
  • As a preview activity in science where I post some pictures and main ideas and students respond
  • In math when I post a math question such as "How did you use math today?" and students respond
  • Posting quotations from a book we are reading and students share their connections
  • In character education when students respond to a prompt such as "What does respect look like?"
Really, the possibilities are endless!  I hope you will give Thought Museums a try!
Now on to Writing Circles...
You may be familiar with Literature Circles in reading class.  Well, Writing Circles are somewhat similar, but unique in their own way.
Writing Circles are used in the writing classroom about once a week to promote collaborative, supported writing activity for all students.
There several component to Writing Circles, but due to space and time, I will try to highlight what I learned here to give you the idea:
1.  Group:  Divide your students into groups of about 4-5 students.  Have each group come up with a name for their group (consider it to be something they all have in common, like my group was called "The Procrastinators" :)
2.  Brainstorm:  Each student is given three notecards.  On each notecard, each student writes 1-2 words of a very broad topic (pets, vacation, school, family, memories, sports, etc.). 
3.  Collect & Distribute:  One student collects all of the cards and shuffles them up.  He then deals three random cards to each person in the group.
4.  Discard:  Each student looks at their three cards, chooses one of the three that she would most like to write about and discards the other two.
5.  Rating:  Students then pass their ONE card to the person on their right.  This person looks at the topic and rates it by putting a small symbol in the top of the notecard.  They use these symbols to rate: 
          * = I would be excited to write about this topic
          + = I could write about this topic
          - = I am NOT interested in this topic AT ALL
Continue to pass the cards to the right and rate them until students get their original card back.
6.  Choose a Topic:  Based on the ratings, students choose the topic they will ALL write about.  It will probably be the topic with the most stars (*).
7.  Writing: Students take a designated amount of time (20 minutes?) to write about their topic.  Students each CHOOSE the genre they will write in, but the topic has to be the same for all group members.  For example, if the topic is "Travel," students could write a poem, a narrative, a vacation review, a newspaper article, an email, etc.
8.  Peer Feedback:  Students then come back together as a group.  They take turns reading their writing out loud to their group.  However, before reading, they tell their group members exactly what kind of feedback they would like.  This is very important as it really helps with the feedback process.  Here are some ideas:
          Connections you had
          Questions that popped in your head as I read my writing
          Does my word choice sound right?
          What did I do well?
          Suggestions for revision
9.  Future Use:  Students can then add this writing to their writer's notebook to use as a writing piece they will take through the entire writing process at a later time if they like it.
How do you assess the Writing Circle? 
- Student self reflection and/or group reflections
- Rubric
- Anecdotal record
- Finished product
Why use the Writing Circle?
- Promotes collaborative learning
- Teaches students how to seek and provide effective feedback
- Students are offered choice
- Students are in control of this writing time
- It generates new ideas & gets kids writing about topics they may not have chosen for themselves

There is an excellent resource available that goes into much more detail called Writing Circles by Jim Vopat.  I am excited to say that my friend, the UPS Man, will be delivering this gem to me very soon!  Can't wait to read it and then I can write more later!!

This is something I definitely want to share with my 4th grade team and the 5th grade because I am so excited about it.  I think it would be awesome if we could all get our students involved in Writing Circles.  (So Jamie, Mickey & Bridget, if you are reading, get ready!  :)
Have you ever used Writing Circles in your classroom?  How do you get students to work collaboratively on writing?  I'd love to hear from you!!
Until tomorrow!


  1. I have never heard of writing circles, but I looooovvvvveeee it. I will def be using it this year. Hope my kiddos are ready for all these great ideas. Thanks for sharing these great ideas. Emily

  2. I really like the Writing Circles idea. I will definitely need to use that in my class this year. Thank you so much for sharing. You MADE a that is technically Monday Made It material!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. Jennifer, I love your post! I have bookmarked it so I will remember (summer brain)... Love the Thought Museum - can be used in so many ways!
    Grade 4 Buzz

  4. Interesting...I've never heard of writing circles. I'm pinning. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners
    Follow me on Bloglovin'

  5. I love both of these ideas! Definitely pinning!


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