Guest blogger Danielle Martin teamed-up with AdoptAClassroom.org to offer practical teacher tips to get your students excited about writing.
If you’re a writing teacher, you probably love to write. Your students might not share this sentiment. They might resist the brainstorming process, the drafting process, or the research process. Or they may simply resist putting words on the page—period.
These trails of creative destruction might have been left behind by external factors, such as overly-critical adults, or stunted curricula. Some students might freeze up when it’s time to write because diagnosed or undiagnosed disabilities make written expression very challenging for them, while other students might battle perfectionism, which presents a stressful challenge to get things “just right.”
Yet none of these challenges are insurmountable. Your students don’t have to loathe writing. With the right structures in place, you can slowly make progress, and chip away at the resistance. Progress might not be instantaneous, but if you persist, you can slowly improve your students’ attitudes about writing.
Need some teacher tips you can start using immediately? Implement these seven writing teacher tips, and you and your students will reap the rewards over time.
1. Have a structure in place
Your students’ writing practice needs to be meaningful and consistent. Writing shouldn’t be an afterthought, slapped onto the end of a book unit. Writing is its own entity, and your students won’t respect writing until it’s given the space it deserves.
If you teach ELA, carve out a predetermined period where you will only work on writing, every single day, if possible!
2. Use rubrics meaningfully
Writing teachers often use rubrics, but how often do our students truly understand these rubrics? As you take the time to explain the different categories on the rubric, try to find “user-friendly” ways of explaining each category on the rubric. Often times, students’ eyes will glaze over with rubric jargon, so you’ll need to present the rubric in ways they’ll find engaging.
Hint: students can play a game where they read sample pieces you wrote and try to evaluate them on the rubric.
3. Make space for warm-ups
Don’t expect students to launch into a multi-step, multi-layered writing project without some warm-up time. Students need to have time to write, without pressure or expectation, to help bolster the idea that writing can be enjoyable.
Your warm-ups should be short: five minutes might even be enough for some groups. Don’t put critical emphasis on these warm-ups. Instead, encourage students to “share out” so that writing and sharing become an interlaced, daily process.
4. Assign “authentic” writing assignments
Most of your students will not learn to love writing if you stick to the bare-bones curriculum. Enhance your curriculum with writing assignments that allow your students to truly enjoy themselves.
Students can write content for their own websites, write professional profiles for their “fantasy LinkedIn” accounts, or they can even become pen pals with students in another class. Writing should never be rigid; make room for some fun…and find ways to tie that fun to the standards you are required to teach.
5. Make mini-conferences your friend
When you conference with students about their writing, don’t try to reinvent the wheel each time. Keep a specific short list of writing terms handy, and reference those terms during each session. Students will quickly become overwhelmed if you deliver complicated feedback about their writing. Keep conferences focused and brief.
6. Use strategic questioning
If a section of a student’s writing is unclear, ask a clarifying question, such as “What were you trying to show in this paragraph?” Some of our students will be able to describe their creative intentions verbally.
You can use these students’ fluent oral language skills to help them with their writing. Jot down key words from every conference so your students can reference these ideas later.
7. Always model your own writing
Sure, it’s important to use outside mentor texts from a variety of genres and authors, but you also need to show your own work. Specifically, focus on your editing and revising processes. It helps students to see that writers need to work on multiple drafts, and that writing takes lots of time and effort. Above all, as you teach writing, model a positive attitude—even when you encounter resistance. Depending on your group of students, it might take many months before you see true, substantive progress—but if you persist, you will likely see your students’ attitudes evolve.
About the author: Danielle Martin is on a mission to help kids (and teachers) thrive. She has taught nine different grade levels in three different states. She currently works in several virtual classrooms across the web, guiding children and adults on their English language journeys. Danielle writes professionally for various organizations; she also enjoys writing fiction.