I cannot take credit for this brilliant idea that has brought back some joy and laughter among my students during Writer’s Notebook time. This zany activity was brought to me by my teaching partner, Brittaney. So if you try it, and your students LOVE it and beg to write more using it, then comment below and I will make sure she sees them!
So what IS this wonderful activity you ask? We call it the RANDOM LIST. Yes, you read correctly, the random list. It is perfectly random and lovely, and my student’s ask to use it all the time. And by all the time… I mean all. the. time.
The concept is that you give students a list of 40 random topics and they write down the first thing that comes to mind. Then over the course of the year, you randomly ask them to write about something on their list. There are a variety of interesting ways to have them write as well:
- Ask them to write about a randomly paired number of items (Today, use #3, #18, and #20 in a story).
- Tell them that their first sentences has to start with their word on #_____.
- Do a bit of “interrupted” writing, where you have them start writing and every few moments say a number randomly and have them incorporate the word they wrote down on that number before the end of their next sentence. For whatever reason, they really love this one. I think because it allows them to be silly with their writing. When they share with their classmates, they always try to impress each other with silly stories and it always ends up with giggles and laughs across the room.
- Give them a mood that their story has to fit and a few of the numbers that the story has to be about.
- Display a picture as the setting and give them a number or a few numbers.
- Roll some dice and use any combination of numbers that appear.
- Have students pull numbers from a cup or use a random number generator.
- Have students close their eyes and point to spot on the paper. The item that is listed that is closest to their finger is what they have to write about.
Here’s the set up:
You will need about 45 minutes to get through everything on the list.
- Open the Google Slide file here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Otjdpzjy6NiJXxOloGotl2OItcCO5TE0mpzdRf7gb0k/edit?usp=sharing
- In your students’ writer’s notebooks, have them number in two columns 1-40.
- Display each slide and have students write down the first thing that comes into their head. I really stress the “rules” on the second slide because it really does make for a more random assortment of words that make for some pretty funny stories throughout the year!
As a teacher, I keep a Writer’s Notebook and try to write in it when the students are writing in theirs as frequently as I can. I’ve found it helpful to have two random lists – one for writing my own silly stories and a second random list that has what the categories of words are in case you have a student who skipped one or was missing one. Having the list of which word is what will prevent you from having to go back to the slides and open them to find out what a particular number should be.
The random list really is a fun and interesting way to make writing a little more enjoyable for middle school students. In which ways do you make writing fun and enjoyable for your students?