Learning how to organize thoughts and create a cohesive argument can be just as confusing. This difficulty can cause students to feel frustrated and to avoid or dislike writing, making it even harder for them to learn to write better. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help these students become more excited about writing to motivate them to learn and to improve their skills. Here are a few ideas for your classroom:
Present Different Types of Writing
Academic essays and reports are important to learn how to write, but they can be the most uninteresting and difficult writing for many students to master. Present other types of writing to students to help them find their voice. Try out forms like poems, short stories, personal essays, songs, plays, blogs, or even television shows or commercials. Students can work on their own creations, or they can be assigned a portion of a larger class project, such as a movie, television show, or play. Not all of these forms will be popular with all students, but presenting these different forms will increase the likelihood that your students will find a type of writing that they do enjoy.
Bring Writing to Life
After students have explored different types of writing such as TV shows or plays, you can offer them additional motivation by producing some or all of those works. You can put on a class play that the students worked on together, or you can bring a video camera and let students film short commercials, mini movies, or even news broadcasts. Students will take pride in their writing and will get excited to show off their creations to fellow students and their parents. Such projects can also help shy students become more active in class. Other ideas for bringing students' work to life include performing songs, hosting a poetry reading, or putting on an art show illustrating their story characters.
Create Fun Contests
Encourage students to do their best work by hosting a variety of contests throughout the year. Make the categories broad to allow more opportunities for different students to win, regardless of their skill level. For example, besides best story or poem, categories could include "most unique characters," "best idea," "teacher's favorite," or even "most improved." The more interesting the categories, the more excited students will be about entering. Contests can be paired well with productions of student work, like a play or poetry reading. Make sure the prizes are interesting enough to motivate students to enter and do their best work. A package of pencils isn't likely to arouse as much excitement as a pizza party or ice cream social.
Structured writing prompts have their place in the classroom, but some students will do their best work when they are left to their own devices. Encourage students to explore ideas by allowing activities like freewriting, mind mapping, or even collage. Journaling or creating visual mind maps are great ways for students to explore their ideas and later organize their writing.
Allow Them to Publish
Much like seeing their work produced in the form of a play or video, publication can motivate students to create their best work. There are many ways that you can provide students opportunities for publication. A blog or class Web site is an easy way to publish all student work throughout the year and to make it easily accessible to other students and to parents. Blogs also allow for reader interaction, giving students a chance to see how others respond to their writing. Other options can include creating a class newsletter, a small anthology, or a public bulletin board (in the school lobby or hallway, for example).
Encourage Group Work
Some students need a little encouragement from their peers in order to find their voice. Help struggling students by assigning group work. When a student has a part in a larger project such as a story, a series of poems, or a play, he can find inspiration in fellow students' ideas. While it may be intimidating to write a piece of work from start to finish, writing only a portion of a larger piece is much more accessible. When the parameters for the project are set (through the collaborative ideas of other students), there is less pressure to think of compelling ideas, making it easier to focus on and strengthen the small part for which the student is responsible.
Make Students the Authorities
Peer editing offers a number of benefits. Student writers learn to identify weaknesses in their writing and how they can improve their ideas. Student editors can learn how to strengthen their own writing by identifying what qualities constitute good writing. When they are assigned as editors, students take on a sense of ownership. They become self-motivated to learn the rules of good writing -- from spelling and grammar to proper construction and cohesive structure.
If students are not properly inspired to write, they won't have the motivation to keep learning and to keep improving their writing. Finding ways to make writing fun and interesting can keep students motivated in the classroom and beyond. Presenting different types of writing, encouraging exploration, and finding ways to bring student work to life or offer opportunities for publication are just some of the ways that teachers can make writing fun for students who don't like to write. Every student is different, and what excites and inspires one student will be boring and tedious for another. Keep trying new tactics and adapt your strategy as needed for your individual students. You will help your students learn a skill that will stay with them their whole lives.
About the Author:
Charissa Newark is the resident blogger and the editor for AccountingDegree.net. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in English in 2005 and unable to find a “9-5”, Charissa began freelance writing and doing research for various websites. A few of the current topics she is researching include receiving an accounting certificate online and other various topics for www.accountingdegree.net.
Writing a five paragraph essay can seem intimidating for a child, but The BING,BANG,BONGOMethod uses colors to help children see the separation of the paragraphs and makes that differentiation easier. This FUN method of teaching essay writing breaks up a very overwhelming concept and teaches children the step-by-step process of essay writing.
For the past twenty years while teaching writing, I have first set the stage for writing a paragraph by using these three approaches: hamburger method, story flower, and the paragraph train.
When my child or student was ready developmentally for writing essays, I transitioned to expanding the concept of writing five sentences to five paragraphs. I first begin by sharing this powerpoint about The BING,BANG,BONGOMethod.
For several weeks, I will continue using the first printable as a visual tool while I sit next to the child and help guide him through the process. When the child becomes more independent, I will use the second printable in this packet (printed on cardstock) as a reference sheet. The child will write his essay on notebook paper underlining the words and sentences that correspond with the reference sheet.
As the pattern of writing a five paragraph essay is better understood and becomes a habit (usually after a few months), I will use the third printable in this packet (printed on cardstock) as a reference sheet and the child will continue writing his essay on notebook paper but this time using no colors. This whole process can take an entire school year but lays the groundwork for all future essays. If you take your time and allow your child to move ahead at his own pace and become comfortable with writing essays in this format, you will be very thankful later. You can download the forms for free HERE.
I continued using the same outline on the third printable in this packet until my oldest son graduated high school. I never purchased a writing curriculum while homeschooling him. He just worked on this format and perfected it as much as possible using strong verbs, transitions, and lots of details. He would also extend this format to a five page research paper (instead of five paragraphs). The first time he took the test, he received a perfect score on his essay portion. ☺