Encouraging Students to Write

Let’s face it.  Teaching students to write is not always easy.  Here are a few tips I have learned from experience that have helped me enjoy teaching writing and have made my students more successful writers.

  1.   Each time you ask students to write, carefully consider your objectives.  Are they writing for practice?  To complete an assignment?  To write a story? To share information?  Tell them and show them what success looks like in that day’s writing.
  2.  Be specific in your instruction by teaching the skills they’ll need repeatedly, and be flexible in your assignment by giving them choices about their topics and writing formats whenever possible.
  1. Read aloud great writing you find in mentor texts.
  2. Point out the interesting things (alliteration, patterns within writing, book formats) authors use and tell the kids, “I bet you could do this in your writing.”
  3. Model, model, model the writing process. Include your thinking and make some mistakes so students know mistakes are part of the process.
  4. Remember the importance of gradual release. Use an “I write it, we write it, we write it, we write it, you write it” model. It is easy to want to jump ahead (and go from you writing directly to the students writing) and then get frustrated because the students didn’t do a good job.  The “we write it” phase is imperative to helping students improve.  Don’t skip that step. J
  5. Kids need words to write successfully. Many teachers are working with students who (for a variety of reasons) lack words.  Creating classroom displays of words like synonyms, idioms, adjectives, and adverbs that kids helped to brainstorm for your word walls are super supports for writers.
  6. Give students time to practice writing. Developing skill in any area takes practice and we must build time for practice into the school day if we want students to develop their skills.
  7. As much as possible, give student’s choices within their writing. Choice is motivating and helps students feel in control. Choice automatically increases excitement and ownership in writing.
  8. Praise your students’ writing. You may have to start with something very small, but find something to praise.
  9. Be sure to give your students meaningful feedback they can use to improve their writing. For example, telling a student he “needs to make his story more interesting” is not as helpful as asking him to “add more details” to his story. To help, have him read part of his writing to you and then ask him questions about what you were wondering while listening.  The answers to those questions are the details he needs to include.
  10. Take advantage of the talent in your classroom to help build a community of writers. You may not realize how much raw talent is sitting in your room waiting to be discovered. As you start to see specific talents rise to the surface, point them out to the class.