I do two activtes with my students to see what they need help with.
First Week Writing Topics
I first start with "Help! I've Shrunk and Nobody Can See Me."
I pass out a lollipop to each child. On the over head we review what makes a great paragraph. A great topic sentence, 3-4 details, and a great concluding sentence. I demonstrate what a good paragraph and a not so good paragraph looks like.
I then let them eat their lollipop. As they are eating the lollipop I tell them that they are shrinking. The more they eat the lollipop the smaller they get. After they are done eating I have them think about what they would see and hear if they were the size of an ant. I write these ideas on the over head as well. Then they use a web and start to create their own stories of what it is like to be as small as an ant. In the end they have to come up with some idea that would make them big again. I get some really creative endings then.
The other one I use is "Up! Up! and Away!" I pass out a piece of gum to each child. This is the only time they are allowed to chew gum in class.
As they chew I have them blow a few bubbles. I tell them to try and make a real big bubble. Not to big so that the bubble pops and gets all over the place. Then I tell them that their bubble is so huge that they are being lifted out of their seats and starting to fly over the school. I then ask them what they would see and hear as they are floating higher and higher in the sky. I write their answers on the over head or board and have them fill out a web or list what they would see. Then they start to write their story. Again I have them come up with a great ending to get them down from the sky without dieing. After their stories are done I have them draw a picture of themselves flying leaving a big space for their mouth. Then we attache a pink blown up ballon to each picture and story. It makes a great display in the classroom or the hallway if others don't touch the balloons.
Each year that I do this my students think that it is great and it gives them a chance to be creative and fun in their writing. I also get a chance to see what needs to be worked on with each student. I hope these ideas are useful to you as they are to me. Happy Writing!