The Power of the Pen: Let Children Choose Writing Centers!

“Y-E-S. N-O. L-O-V-E. H-E-L-P.” When children see the power of written words, they want to write, too. A “writing center” gives children easy access to writing materials and lets them enjoy a variety of activities while they learn skills that will help them become confident, competent writers—and meet language arts benchmarks. (See Illinois Early Learning and Development Benchmarks 5.A.ECa, 5.A.ECb, and 5.A.ECc.)

What are the basics of making a writing center?

  • A quiet space with seats for two or more at desks or a table
  • Paper: unlined paper, clean scrap paper, outdated business stationery, lined paper
  • Pencils, pens, crayons, chalk, erasers (NOTE: Some children work best with larger crayons or thick pencils. Others do better with thinner pencils or crayons.)
  • An alphabet chart with capital and lowercase printed letters, plus numerals
  • Print samples: greeting cards, calendars, newspapers, magazines, handwritten messages, coupons

What other materials might encourage children to visit the writing center?

  • Clipboards: purchased or made from stiff cardboard and two paperclips
  • Colored pencils and nontoxic markers
  • Special papers: envelopes, colored paper, graph paper, postcards, index cards, appointment books, message pads, labels
  • Office supplies: tape, paperclips, stapler, brads, hole punch, scissors
  • Canceled postage stamps, promotional stamps
  • Rubber stamps of letters and words, stamp pads
  • Chalkboard, whiteboard, Magna-Doodle, Etch-A-Sketch (These tools save paper and allow children to easily erase “mistakes.”)
  • Magnetic letters or words; alphabet blocks; letters made of wood, sandpaper, or plastic
  • Picture dictionary
  • Storage for children’s work (file folders, accordion files, binders)
  • Places to display children’s writing

When might a child use a writing center?

  • When she selects writing as an activity during choice time
  • When he wants to create signs, tickets, or other props for dramatic play
  • When she wants to make a message for a friend or family member
  • When using centers is part of the daily schedule