4 Simple Steps to Implement a Writing Carousel

Writing stations in upper elementary

Have you ever used a writing carousel in your classroom? There are many benefits to using this type of activity with your students. Writing carousels increase student engagement because students are working together and up and out of their seat moving during the entire lesson. A writing carousel increases student discourse about writing strategies and analyzing pre-written work, too! Sounds like a win-win, right? Writing carousels require a little bit of teacher prep before the lesson begins, but once it is underway you will already be planning your next carousel activity! Carousels are similar to writing stations and centers, however the directions are the same for each stop the students make. It is a great way to increase time on task and engage writers of all levels, ages, and grades! It is also a great activity to review tricky concepts and strategies and can be used as test prep, too!

Here are some simple steps to setting up and implementing a writing carousel in your classroom.

Determine the Purpose

The first step to implementing a writing carousel is to determine the purpose with a clear objective. Do you want to improve students' beginnings? Do you want to strengthen students' figurative language? Do you want to help students write a stronger ending? Whatever your focus is, be sure to stick to one clear objective. Each stop around the carousel are all related to your focused objective. A writing carousel gives students many opportunities to analyze the work of others and practice a specific writing technique many times. So be sure to stay focused!

Gather Materials and Find the Space

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The materials needed to effectively implement a writing carousel are a timer, large size chart paper, many different colored markers, tape/stapler, and a large space to allow for students to move around to each part of the carousel. Although I have used my classroom for writing carousels, I prefer to seek out an empty classroom or hallway in my school to implement the activity. More spaces allows more distance between stations and students, allowing them to focus on the task at hand, and not their neighbors! If you cannot find a large space to hold your carousel, spread out your carousel stops as far apart as possible within your own classroom.

Set Up the Stations

A writing a carousel is essentially stations or centers set up "around" the classroom for students to go around and around as if they were on a carousel. Each stop should be labeled with large numbers, so students know where to jump on the carousel, where they will travel to next, and finally where they will end. If your objective is to have students master writing story beginnings or leads, you can set up each "stop" with a pre-written prompt. Groups of students are then responsible for reading the prompt, deciding on a strong beginning, and writing that beginning underneath. However, there is a catch! Students MUST read all the of the beginnings written by the other groups first, because they cannot repeat strategy that was already used! Be sure that whatever information you write on the chart paper is in black or printed out so that it stands out from the students' writing which will be in different colored markers.

Classroom Management

Setting the ground rules before starting is a MUST! Divide students into groups ranging from 2-4 students depending on your classroom size. Assign each group of students one color marker. The group will be traveling and writing with that color mark at every station, so they need to travel around with the marker. Make sure you have enough different colors for all of your groups. This allows you to easily identify which group did which piece of writing, and it helps students to see which stations they have already "stopped" at.  Student do not need to write their names on each piece of writing they complete, because their color marker identifies them. Tell students what stop they are beginning at and set the timer to begin. Be sure to set a limit of sentences you want each group to write. I usually give students about 3-4 minutes at each stop. This allows students to read the prompt, read the previously written material from other groups, discuss their plan of attack, and write! You might have time for students to travel all the way around, or only have time for them to make a few stops. Either way it is ok, the true magic takes place in the sharing at the close of the lesson! Click here to read about easy to implement student collaboration strategies.

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To wrap up your writing carousel, reiterate your objective. Have students share writing that they felt were strong examples of the objective, stops along the carousel that were hard for them, and those that were easy.  Decide as a class on a carousel "stop" that had strong writing examples. Then use that chart paper as an anchor chart in your classroom.  It becomes a meaningful resource for the students because all of the writing is their own!

Even though setting up a carousel is a little bit of work at first, it is very much worth it! It is my favorite lesson activity to review a writing technique and engage all levels of writers. You will be so impressed with the student dialogue you hear and the writing that students complete!

Grab a year long set of prompts to use for carousel writing here.

Looking for more creative ways to use writing prompts in your classroom? Click here to read about unique ideas your kids will love!

You Might Also Be Interested in Reading:

Writing Engaging Leads

Student Collaboration Strategies


Jeanine, from Think Grow Giggle, has been teaching elementary students for 16 years, specifically third and fifth graders. When it comes to teaching, Jeanine includes her love of reading and writing into every lesson.  She loves teaching writing and having the opportunity to bring out the author in each of her students.  Jeanine holds a BA from Western Connecticut State University in American Studies and Elementary Education and an MA from Fairfield University in Educational Technology. In addition to being a certified elementary teacher, she is also a certified Reading Specialist for grades K-12. Living on the north shore of Long Island means that her free time is spent at the beach where she enjoys outdoor activities, reading, and spending time with her husband and three children.