Socially Distanced Writing Centers

These socially distanced writing centers allow students to engage in meaningful literacy center work while maintaining safety & distance. Make sure to download a free socially distant writing center in the post!

I don’t know about you, but my initial reaction to the idea of having to keep elementary students socially distanced in the classroom was simply, “That’s impossible!”. So much of what we have always done in the classroom has required students to share materials and work together in close proximity. I had a hard time imagining how it could look any different!   

It wasn’t long before I realized I needed to change my mindset.  It was clear that maintaining social distance was (understandably) going to be a requirement for those returning to school,  I knew I had to start thinking about how I could best help make this work. 

Literacy centers have always been a large and important part of the day in lower grade classrooms. With that in mind, I began brainstorming solutions that allow students to engage in meaningful centers while still maintaining their social distance.   

I quickly realized that there are A LOT of literacy center activities that easily and even naturally allow for social distancing!  In my last post, I shared all about socially distanced reading centers. Today I’m eager to share SOCIALLY DISTANCED WRITING CENTERS and show you how easily you can put them into action in your own classroom!  

Establishing Classroom Routines for Safety

Student health and safety has always been our #1 priority but in this time of Covid-19 it is of utmost importance.  In order to ensure these centers run safely it is absolutely necessary to TEACH, MODEL and have your students PRACTICE routines and procedures for safety.  

The procedures you set into place may depend on your students and your classroom set-up but I thought they could include: 

-Teaching students to properly sanitize materials after use. This could include teaching students to wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after using materials if your school allows.

-Teaching them to place used materials and books in a “quarantine” or “used materials” bin. 

-Modeling how to gather the materials and work only in their personal work space.  Teach them what that space looks like and feels like! 

-Creating a bin of personal materials students can keep at their seat. (this may include a whiteboard marker, eraser, erasable sleeve that they can easily slip a center worksheet in and out of).  

Once you have a clear plan for how you’ll ensure the health and safety of your students, you can begin to introduce them to the following writing centers!!

Socially Distanced Writing Centers

Story Retell Sequence Writing

This is a center activity I’ve used in a lot of different ways over the years! My students have always loved it and been appropriately challenged because of how it is naturally differentiated. I love it because it’s a NO PREP, printable (and now digital) center activity has students practicing sequencing, writing and reading all in one! 

In the past, (before distancing was a thing!) I’d let my students choose a story to order using the sequence picture card, and then also allow them to the choice to work collaboratively with a classmate or create a story on their own.

They used 4-5 sequence picture cards to order events, and then transition words and specific story vocabulary words to tell their story.

If I were to use this activity today, I would still give them the choice of which sequencing cards they want to use, but just have them order and write the story independently!

The resource includes a “Good Writers” editing checklist reminder at the bottom of the paper and a basic sight word list to post in your writing center. These prompts naturally differentiate your writing center. Even my most emergent, timid writers shine using them!

To keep this writing activity extra safe for students, simply make copies of the 24 story prompts to sequence and have them use their own paper to sequence and write their story. 

Another option to make this a socially distant center is for your students to practice sequence writing using the digital version of the center, then they don’t need any materials other than a computer!  

Download a Free Sample of these Sequence Writing prompts to try with your students by clicking the image below!

Sequence writing prompts

Picture Writing Prompts

The Writing Picture Prompts are an all-time favorite writing center of mine! It has helped SO many of my students to become more engaged, organized and productive writers.

Personally, I love it because it’s a single writing resource that provides the proper level of support to ALL of my students.  I was so happy when I realized it was a great match for social distancing!

Each picture prompt comes with a story specific vocabulary word bank to provide support to writers who may have difficulty getting started. The words help them brainstorm topics and can be used to assist in spelling. Your more proficient writers will be able to use the picture as a springboard for their pieces and can be challenged to find ways to incorporate the vocabulary words into their work.

Finally, included in each prompt is also a self-editing checklist to remind students to check over their work before declaring, “I’m done!!”

The resource bundle includes 40 different prompts, 10 for each season!  I recommend you take out three at a time and give students the option to choose what the prompt they want to write about.  This keeps engagement high and students motivated!  

In the past I would laminate the colored pictures and use them over and over again. To keep things safe this year, you could just make copies of the black and white pictures. So simple!

If laminating is your thing, you could also laminate the color prompts and teach students to properly wipe them down and place them in a “quarantined” bin when they are done using them.  

Finally, there is also the option to use the digital version of the resource. 

If you chose to use the digital version, I would suggest having students look at the prompts on the screen but do the actual writing using their own pencil and paper. 

Writing with a pencil has many benefits including developing their fine motor skills and helping them to better retain what they are writing.  

Letter Writing

This center is so much fun for kids! I promise your students will love writing friendly letters to Scruffy the Dog! He’s got oh so many “problems” to be solved and the solutions students suggest are always adorable. This is a perfect letter writing center activity to do after you have taught the parts of a friendly letter. 

The resource includes 20 letters from Scruffy with student relevant problems for students to respond to, 3 choices of anchor charts to use while teaching parts of a friendly letter, and 3 choices of letter writing paper.  

It’s super easy to keep students socially distanced while engaging in this center!  You can laminate letters from Scruffy and have them “quarantined” when students are complete, or make copies of the letters that students can throw away when complete!  

Writing Picture Prompts

One last writing center activity that can easily be used in a socially distanced classroom are the Writing Picture Prompts. I’ve loved this center (and had great success with it!) for a long time because it has supports in place to help students overcome common obstacles.

We all have students who have difficulty choosing a topic and/or getting started on a piece.  Many find it hard to write multiple details about their topic. Then there are those who’s limited vocabulary makes it difficult to expand on their thoughts and ideas.  Finally, there are students who feel apprehensive about writing due to their knowledge (or lack there of) of spelling. This single resource supports all of these types of students!

The picture prompts have vocabulary words printed right on the page as a support for writers. This support makes a huge difference. Not only are the words accessible for spelling, but it also helps some students to add more detail to their writing.

Each printable also includes a personal editing checklist at the bottom of the page to serve as a reminder for students to check over their work!

Finally, students can use the printables for different types of writing. The pictures lend themselves to narrative, informative, and opinion writing! With 25 different pictures for EACH SEASON, it’s a single resource that can keep your students writing all year long!

The Writing Picture Prompts feel like they were made for social distancing! There is really not much I would change! To organize this center I have always mounted one laminated printable on the cover of a file folder and simply put copies in the folder.

Today, I would organize the same way and just have the students take the individual copy they chose back to their personal workspace to complete.

I hope the information and resources I’ve shared today will help you see that having students engage in meaningful writing centers CAN happen, even in the socially distanced classroom!  

Be on the lookout for my next post where I will share a great list of socially distanced WORD WORK CENTERS!

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