LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT!  Generating Topics for Self-Selected Writing

Students need to learn that the best writing comes from topics they care about. What’s better than something we absolutely love or truly cannot stand?

One of the hallmarks of the Writing Workshop is self-selection of topics.  But too many of our students have trouble thinking of topics to write about.  That’s why it’s important to have a repertoire of topics in their writing folders.  

Introduction: Tell students that the best writing comes from topics that a writer feels strongly about. In this lesson, they will have an opportunity to generate a list of things they absolutely love and things they loathe – a new vocabulary word for some. They can tuck this list into the “Ideas” pocket of their writing folders to be available as topics for writing. The “loves” and “loathes” can lead to equally strong feelings and strong writing.

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Instruction: Model, model, model! Even something as simple as a two-column chart should be demonstrated before students are expected to tackle it on their own. Make a T-chart by folding a piece of paper in half. Label one half “Love It” and the other half “Loathe It.” In each column, generate a list of objects, food, places, activities, habits, hobbis, and beliefs that you adore or abhor. (The only rule is: no people’s names in the “Loathe It” column.) As you write, talk through your thinking for the students.

Guide students as they create their own “Love it or Loathe it” charts, with about 6-10 topics in each column.  Have students keep these charts in their writing folders as potential topics for writing.


The “LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT” Chart is an excellent way to introduce writing on the first day of school.  It’s nonthreatening – simply a list – and should be accessible to any student.

Give students an opportunity to talk about their lists with others.  Talking through their ideas makes it easier to write about them later.

After the students have created their lists, tell them to choose any topic from their list and write whatever they want about the topic.  If they finish writing, tell them to choose another topic and start writing.  The key is to keep writing during the entire time. Monitor students to judge how long to keep them writing.

The next day, model and demonstrate three ways to use writing time:  start a new piece, finish an incomplete piece, or go back into a piece to revise or improve it.

Continue this process each day for the first week.  You might want to model different ways to revise a piece of writing:  by inserting, replacing, reorganizing or removing details.

By the end of the week, you should have a collection of writing from every student to analyze, to assess their writing development and to plan future instruction.


What should we look for in student writing?  This quick and easy checklist can help you identify what your students know and can do as writers.  Click here or on the image below for a printable pdf and a more detailed three-level rubric.

Writing Checklist image
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