What's in a Big Write Support Tub?

Recently I was asked to help suggest items to put in a Big Write table caddy. This is a very personalised classroom item, so whilst I will share a few items and tricks my students loved, it’s important to remember that what is support for one student, is not for another. Even within my classroom, the tubs varied from table to table, and across the year they continued to be personalised.

But the question was, what do you put in the support tubs, so here is my answer… Personally, I love having the personalised VCOP chatterboxes, but you could also use the generic ones that are already filled in. (They can be found in the VCOP Resources, but there are several levels, so I recommend choosing the applicable one).

Each of my students would have their chatterbox in their tub. During BW or editing, I could ‘chatterbox challenge’ them. There would be a target like, add a wow word, up-level the opener, etc. They would have to try and include it in their writing or point it out if they felt they had already completed the challenge. The personalised chatterboxes would have more student-specific challenges or editing reminders – Does my story flow? Have I remembered capitals for Proper Nouns Etc?

I also like the opener keyrings for more capable students and junior opener mats for less capable writers (I don’t cut up the junior ones so they can easily see the whole mat and the keyrings are also differentiated by the number of cards on the ring). These are fabulous if you have troubled starters- we add a flipping frog and they have to jump the frog onto the sheet, whichever opener they land on, they have to use to get started.
You can see the flipping frogs in action here.

Special Big Write pencils are important – ‘Always there, always sharp so you have no excuse not to start’ or Always there, always sharp, always ready to help you start.’ -Depending on your kids. I usually use the first one in older grades haha. I choose good quality pencils, but just try to buy different to school supplies grey leads. They are kept in the tubs and can not be used at other times. 

Editing pencils- I encourage them to change to a red editing pencil to show what they edited and up-leveled during the 10mins self-editing time. 

I include a sharpener with a build-in shavings holder to stop them from having to go to the bin. However, I did have one child that learn how to unscrew the blade or had an obsession to see what he could sharpen. His table tub did not have a sharpener, and it was the table that I most checked in on. 

I have a few erasers. I don’t love erasers and I set boundaries for use. I tell them I love to see their edits and their brain working, so a single cross out is great. However, I am also a bit of a neat freak and would die if I couldn’t erase some of the mess. I even have an erasable pen for my diary. For my son, you wouldn’t be able to read his work if he couldn’t try and make it a little neater with an eraser, so I include a few erasers.

In some tubs, I had access to some common word charts. I used an oxford chart laminated and cut it up as a flip chart. Some tubs had a kids dictionary, others had a phonics chart.

I also liked to have a few cheap mini jotter pads for planning or spelling attempts or doodling for some.

To build up stamina, I had some brain break activities. The idea is to keep them in their seats and their brains active. As soon as they get out of their seats or stop thinking, the writing time stops – usually 7-10 mins for my reluctant writers. This surprisingly matched when my extension writers would get so caught up in the description for example, that they would lose flow. So at about 7-10mins a had ‘that table’ pause at the end of the sentence they were writing. The extension students read over what they had written using a phonic phone, they would remind themselves of their next steps and then keep going. My reluctant writers would use a 2-minute sand timer and a choice activity (mindfulness colouring, brain puzzle, small water game puzzle, fidget puzzle – the coloured ball one was the favourite, or a cheap mini Lego build. Think Mc Donalds happy meal toy or cheap Kmart toys, but all were quiet and mess-free.) At the end of the 2 minutes, they OWED me more writing. They had to read over what they had written and then write the next part. We then put more conditions on breaks, as they owed me a certain amount of writing, not just a time. I used the same sand timer if I was scribing too – I will scribe for 2 minutes, but then you owe me 10 minutes or a certain amount.

I encourage phonic phones at every year level as they are so unbelievably beneficial for self-editing and planning or checking the writing. With COVID this means I also would have to have Dettol wipes or similar for after use.

I usually had a laminated student scale, editing guide, or breakdown buddy checklist to remind them during the writing time. Try and link in with any class modelling or other approaches/programs that are running. 

Most tubs have the A7 Goal setting cards to support them as well. The idea is that you would place a character card in front of them, character face up. It is a reminder – Connie Connective is here to help you add/up-level your connectives today. You can turn her over if you need more help. On the back is a simplified chart compared to the pyramids. For Connie it has connectives in categories – And, But, So, Because, and Time connectives. They can be found here.

As pictured in the caddy in this post, I would include laminated VCOP Pyramids, (make sure you have the Australian ones in the correct colours). A filled-in one is here. Or a blank, build your own, one is here.

As highlighting usually happens the day after the Big Write, you might have a separate tub for them or include them in these support caddies. Just make sure you keep them separate from pencil cases, and model how to use each one before independence. I teach them to underline the openers in blue and a single swipe for all other colours. We introduce one colour at a time, and some students will never be able to edit using all four colours in one sitting. So take it slow. We have labels on our highlighters to help as well. You can get them from here.

As I said at the start, these tubs will grow and shrink over the year as you work out what students need what items. You need to check what is a support and what is a distraction or a hindrance to their work as well.