Teaching Tip: Improving Student Writing
Five Teachers Across the Grade Levels Share Ideas
PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
The days of copying from the board passing for writing in kindergarten are long gone. With the No Child Left Behind Act and higher kindergarten standards in full swing, children need to start writing from day one. Plus, 4 and 5 year olds are a lot more capable than we give them credit for.
From the first day of school until the last day of school, children have an opportunity to write independently for 30-40 minutes each day about the things that are important to them.
Here are some tips to help your kindergartners (and even preschoolers) become writers:
- Spend time having students tell about their lives: places they've been, people in their family, events that happen, etc.
- Let students draw a picture of their story. Remind them to sketch themselves in the drawing.
- Encourage your students to label themselves with the word "me," as well as the other people and objects in their drawing.
- Have students write the best they can under their picture. Many students begin with random markings or letters at the beginning of the year. I usually write a translation at the bottom or on the back of the paper so I will remember what they were trying to say. By June, they have progressed to inventive and standardized spelling with some attention to spacing, punctuation, and grammar. These students are better prepared for the challenges of 1st grade.
Tracey Roudez: Interactive Writing
Interactive writing is a wonderful way to keep students engaged in the learning process. This allows students to participate in not only the writing process, but also practice and develop the editing phase of writing. This can be done in a whole group setting as well as in smaller groups for more individualized instruction.
Genia Connell: Writing With Picture Books!
I’ve discovered one of the best ways to teach specific writing traits is by using picture books as models. No matter what writing lesson you are teaching, you are sure to find several books and authors who use that trait well. Use those books to emphasize how a “real” author does it and you’re sure to have students clamoring to write the same way.
For example, when my students are writing their own fairy tales and I want them to set the stage with their story beginnings, I go to my bookshelf, grab ten or so books and read the first two or three sentences to them. After only two or three examples, the students make the “discovery” that all of the books begin the same way, with the author letting the audience know when, where, and who. After that they begin to look for those characteristics in the remaining books and we map them out together. The students are then eager to begin writing or revising their own fairy tales to make their stories begin the exact same way.
Plan ahead before you teach the skill or writing trait and look for books that model it best. When I find one that portrays voice, word choice, or sentence fluency particularly well, I make a note of the title and trait in my writing binder. When the time comes for teaching the trait, I already have a list of books to take off the shelf.
Jennifer Chandler: Cooperative Writing
Teachers often think a student’s writing process should be completed independently. Think about this: writers don't work in a vacuum. Writing is a creative process that involves an audience to accept and internalize the piece's message. So, wouldn’t it make sense to allow students to work cooperatively throughout the process in order to keep everything in check? I've found that using this approach helps alleviate the intimidation and frustration that accompanies writing tasks. Because of this social interaction, my students now look forward to writing in any format!
Elizabeth Ramos: The Writing is on the Wall
Ever have difficulty with motivating your students to write? Here are my tips to make the task a little easier on both yourself and your students.
When assigning a descriptive writing lesson, have students illustrate the subject first. This helps them build upon prior knowledge.
Provide a simple rubric. It's important to let them know the precise expectations of the assignment.
Create a vocabulary list for your students to use in their writing. Teach the meanings of the words in a brief mini-lesson prior to the writing lesson.
For students who have difficulty, provide a template for the first few writing assignments to help them understand the objectives.
Allow your students to use the peer-editing process. They might not catch all the mistakes, but it will save you time when grading those papers.
Provide your own writing model to increase motivation. For example, when assigning longer essays, read an essay written by you.
Choice is key! Let students choose their own topics that they can relate to when possible.
Post all complete work on your bulletin boards. Giving students a sense of pride supports all your instruction.