The key to teaching writing is to take away the fear and the excuses. "I don't know what to write about," is the worst excuse EVER! If your students give you this excuse, you need to rethink your brainstorming activities for Writer's Workshop.
Four ideas for writing topics are as easily attained, easily implemented, and easily explained.
I am an admitted thrift store junkie. I have some thrift stores in the area I frequent for specific things. I go to the book section first. Can't pass up children's books for 78 cents! I also look for word books, but that's coming later. Then I look for "Topic Cards." Most people know these as flashcards, but they are really topic cards in disguise. I put the cards in a container labeled "Topics." If students want a new topic, they can choose a card. Easy. Last week I found old cards for a peg board (young teachers won't know what I'm talking about). These cards didn't have words, but it was easy enough to add the words with a permanent marker.
Seasonal or Topic-based Word Cards can provide students with many, many topics. These word cards can be related to your state standards or could be fun word cards, like FIRE FIGHTERS! This word card excites boys and girls.
These Word Books or Picture Dictionaries are perfect topic books. These books contain words with clear photographs.
Finally, using Vocabulary Anchor Charts in the classroom can provide a wonderful topics for your students. They could want to write a new chapter for "Dinosaurs Before Dark" or they can write their own Jack and Annie story. They might even want to write a completely different story about dinosaurs.
I hope these ideas will end the "I don't know what to write about" excuses.