25 Ways to Get Kids Writing
1. Online Mad Libs
Nothing teaches parts of speech with as much laugh-out-loud joy as a good game of Mad Libs. With the Wacky Tales link at funbrain.com, students can choose from a variety of already selected words or use that list to inspire them to come up with their own descriptions. Their stories are guaranteed to be hilarious, and the activity is ideal for those students who are shy about sharing.
2. Write Your Own Folktales
Since at least the dawn of cafeteria food, kids have enjoyed hearing myths. Using Scholastic's website, kids can weave their own myths, folktales, and fairy tales using superb examples of all three. Be sure to have them check out the link to the Storytelling Workshop, a listen-and-watch workshop with Gerald Fierst performing the West African folktale "How Monkey Stole the Drum."
3. AHA!, YO!, and ZuZu
What are AHA!, YO!, and ZuZu? Find out when you and your students go beyond the classroom and visit this website, a
comprehensive list of online publications looking for student submissions in all genres and media, for all ages.
4. Writer's Block Cures
"I just can't think of anything to write." Heard those words before? Ironically, it's often all that thinking getting in the way of writing. The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers one of the best virtual remedies for writer's block, including a comprehensive list of "symptoms" and "possible cures" to keep things flowing in the brain and on the paper. Share the list with your students and invite them to come up with their own solutions to the writing blues.
5. My Hero
Contests are a great way to remind students that competition should bring out the best in an individual for the greater good of the whole. For one online contest that keeps this higher purpose in mind, look no further than myhero.com. This international contest asks individuals, classes, even entire schools to submit essays and multimedia art (including video) to honor their heroes, and teaches kids that the best motivation for writing is through the heart.
6. Story Maps and Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are key for young writers, and for those writers who are primarily visual learners, story mapping takes it one step further. This site describes story mapping in detail and includes lesson plans and a rubric that will motivate students to make deeper connections between character and actions and get those marker-happy kids even happier.
7. ELL/ESL Games and Quizzes
How many times do you wish you could give your English language learners computer assignments that will truly build their writing skills? This website is a goldmine of ELL/ESL games and activities, including interactive crossword puzzles and multiple-choice quizzes in both grammar and vocabulary. Need something in Urdu? No problem. The site contains bilingual quizzes in over 50 languages.
8. Get Published
One of the many advantages of the Internet is the way it has opened up the possibility for writers of all levels to get published. YouthInkit.com contains wonderful examples of published articles from groups of students throughout the country. The site is separated into links and resources for three distinct groups-students, teachers, and parents-so students may want to explore on their own and you may want to add it to your list of recommended sites for families. What a great way to celebrate writing outside of the classroom walls.
9. The Daily Buzzword
There are many online dictionaries, but none we found were as versatile or fun for students as wordcentral.com, Merriam-Webster's website that's strictly for kids. The site's dictionary, thesaurus, and word games are terrific, but the "Daily Buzzword" is the real winner. This feature includes a word of the day, its meaning, how it's used, and an "Are you a word wiz?" multiple-choice quiz for those who love a challenge.
10. Do the Twist
The Twist, the Sausage, and the Up and Down may sound like moves from the dance floor, but they're actually three of the offbeat poetic structures you can learn about from this under-the-radar website from the University of Oregon. Lesson plans included (for both poetry and fiction writing) are suitable for all ages, backgrounds, and interests.
11. Rubrics at the Ready
Who doesn't love a good rubric? This site is comprehensive. The Rubrics for Primary Grades are varied and specific to each grade level, and the links under Creating Your Own Rubrics are helpful not only for teachers but for older students ready to put the assessment tools in their own hands.
12. Persuasive Writing for K-5
Think persuasive writing is just for middle schoolers? Think again! This site includes valuable resources-printouts, lesson plans for different levels, links, and a student interactive-for teaching the art of persuasion to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. The lessons on Fact vs. Opinion, Peer Review, and Speechwriting are particularly excellent.
13. Preventing Plagiarism
With the accessibility of online information, plagiarism is more insidious than ever. For the most kid-friendly expla-nation, and tips to prevent plagiarism, print out the article in kidshealth.org. (Just remember to cite the source from
which you got it!)
14. Get on the Raft
One of the most proven ways to get students to consider the importance of objective and audience is through the
RAFT technique. RAFT (an acronym for Role of the Writer, Audience, Format, Topic) is to writing what method acting is to drama, and this website, complete with lesson plans and a rubric, is a great starting kit.
15. What If? Prompts
What if cows gave root beer instead of milk? What if it really did rain cats and dogs? These are just two examples from over 200 of the writing prompts listed on this site. Questions range from silly to introspective and guarantee more smiles and less groans during freewriting and journal time.
16. Citation is for Kids
Although many students don't learn how to source properly until high school (or, sadly, college), you can get your students ahead of the game with this site. Whether it's a page on a website, an image from the Internet, or a personal e-mail, documentation is the best way to give "props" where they're due.
17. Vocabulary Challenge
"I finished typing my final draft two days ago. Can't I just play computer games?" If you've heard this before (and you have), direct your gifted (or just super-motivated) student to this website full of challenging online quizzes for grammar, vocabulary, and literary devices.
18. The Play is the Medium
For many of your students, performance can be a strong motivation to write. This website from Edutopia contains links to three outstanding online resources for teaching playwriting, a list of theater outreach groups in your area, and some helpful tips to get the words to jump off the page in more ways than one. Look for the downloadable lesson plans on creating characters and conflict.
19. Gingerbread, mmm.
Language arts and the sciences intersect when it's time to teach sensory details, and this site has 10 inventive ideas for lessons that focus on sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For the ultimate four-dimensional storytelling experience, try the "Gingerbread Man" retelling using the scent of actual gingerbread.
20. Writing for Change
This is every middle school English teacher's dream site for its ability to inspire some thoughtful, dialogue-
provoking writing. The site includes over 50 activities that take from five minutes to one hour.
21. Free Typing Class
One of the most basic technical aspects of writing in the 21st century is knowing how to type, but the irony of growing up with smart-phones is how few can do it using more than two fingers. Luckily it's easy and costs nothing to learn to type using the games on this fun website.
22. "If I had the power"
This site lists over 30 writing activities to promote self-reflection for students of all levels. The titles alone (e.g.,"If I Had the Power," "I Am What I Think I Am!") are empowering; one can only imagine the positive vibes that will grow.
23. Allegory to Simile
At this site, you'll find a list of literary devices with clear descriptions and links to some bright ideas for lesson plans. (Any educational website that uses Pink Floyd's song "Time" to illustrate "various poetic devices that enhance the meaning" is a friend of ours.)
24. Word for Beginners
We assume that the digital generation is computer savvy, but many kids are only proficient in IMing and Facebook. Here's a free Microsoft tutorial for Word to maximize their writing time and prepare for the world beyond.
25. National Writing Project
No list of writing resources would be complete without the National Writing Project. Teachers are also writing students, and NWP contains a library of stellar books on the art of teaching writing. It's a must for keeping your mind as sharp as your pencil.