One of my first writing activities with students involves Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.
I read the book with my class and talk about how we can use memories to write about ourselves. I have the students take home a paper lunch bag with a note for homework. Their job is to put 4-5 items in their bag that help them remember important things in their lives.
When they bring the items in, I give them time to share with a partner. We talk about how to take turns and listen to a partner and I model before setting them loose. Over a couple days, I have them partner up with different kids to get to know new friends.
After the sharing times, I model thinking about one of my object and writing about what I am thinking through a think aloud. I also use this as a time to introduce writing in journals. I then have the students write about one of their favorite memories they have in their treasure bags.
This activity has been an amazing motivator for the most reluctant writers. I had one little guy who wrote about items from his treasure bag throughout the year. We also use this bag as a jumping off point to create a list of "Writing Gems" or their ideas for writing. This stays in their folder all year long and can be added to.
After a few weeks, I have the students take their items home and begin other activities to foster writing.
I have attached a printable with my letter, labels for the bags (or small boxes if you wish), and a writing idea list. Click here to download it.