I love teaching writing. That hasn't always been the case, even though I've always been a writer myself. About 20 years ago, I attended a writing institute that change me completely as a teacher. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend that you devote the 3 weeks and participate in an Abydos Learning International (formerly known as The New Jersey Writing Project in Texas) institute.
One of the things I learned about during my writing institute is the importance of pre-writing. Give a kid a pencil and a piece of paper and tell him to write, and most likely he will complain that he doesn't have anything to write about. It is so worth it to spend some time up front to gather ideas. I love using trade books for this purpose.
I personally like to start the year off with a personal narrative. Most of my students come to me without much writing experience. Research teaches us that students are more likely to work hard on something that has personal meaning to them. So I use this book to help gather seed ideas students can use for that first piece of writing and for the rest of the year in writing workshop.
Click on the picture to read about the book at Amazon.
First I read students the book. Then we use listing to generate a lot of memories. Students make a list of people who are important to them. Then next to each person's name, they write a memory associated with that person. For example, I would list my Dad and then write "singing while Dad played the guitar" as my memory. It is incredibly important for you as the teacher to model this for the students. Next each idea (not developed at all - simply the idea) is written on a strip of paper. Finally, we use card stock or construction paper to fold a memory box to hold the ideas. If you Google origami box, you will find many sites with instructions.
To read more ideas for establishing writing workshop, click on graphic at the top of the page to go visit Ideas by Jivey's linky!