Writing is not everyone’s cup of sweet tea. Here are a few strategies and motivating activities that are sure to boost writing abilities and confidence in the classroom.
We practice stamina writing with students. Stamina writing is when students are building their ability to write over a period of time. I set students up with a prompt or situation (an audience that they are writing to) and then “pump up the crowd.” What I mean by this is that I turn the classroom into a stadium of sorts where students put their pencils down and start clapping out what we are doing.
I might say, “ Here we go, clap, clap. Doing some writing, clap, clap. To entertain our peers, clap, clap." We then do the “clap down," which is where we clap really slow and then go faster and faster. The last thing we do is a count down for when pencils will hit the papers and we will take off. “10…9…8…” and so on. After "1" I say, “Let’s get writing!” The kids are so excited about the pump up and all the work we put into preparing the writing session, they just start writing. Oftentimes the excitement overpowers the fear or unwillingness to write. It’s a pretty fun experience and the kids are so engaged in the “act” of getting ready to write, they buy into the task of doing it.
Allow students the opportunity to write in a way that works best for them. If the task is to write an informational piece on polar bears, offer students the opportunity to first write it in a way that they are comfortable. This could be in a number of forms of informational writing: diary, recipe, paragraph, or comic strip.
If the writing is meant to serve as an assessment piece of what the student knows about the topic, that information will be present in any form of writing. With the non-traditional forms, you can still check for sentence completion, accurate accounts of information, and punctuation and spelling.
Giving students a choice empowers them to really apply their knowledge because they get to write something in a way that is comfortable for them. This does not have to be the case every time, but could be an option for those who just can’t get the words out in a more formal manner.
Some students love the opportunity to share with others. I call this time “Author’s Chair” and “Open Mic.” I use author’s chair at the end of our writing time together. Students who share at author’s chair are those who have tried a writing strategy during a mini-lesson that day. For example, if we were working on similes, for instance, any author who used similes in their writing that day and wanted to share would be invited to do so at the end of class time.
Open Mic is something I do more sporadically where students can share anything they’ve written in their notebooks. For both situations, students must read from their notebooks what they have written. They are not allowed to come up to the microphone and “free talk” their story. It must be read (also a secret fluency assessment for me).
We often take our writing outside of our notebooks. We write on plain copy paper. We write with chalk. We write on whiteboards. We type on devices. Taking writing away from the pencil and paper regime helps students who have not mastered that handwriting skill yet. For some students, a different writing environment is really all they need to trigger their expressive side.
Another form of “Outside the Notebook” writing is partner writing and scribe writing.
Partner Writing is where two people sit together and work on creating a writing piece as one. Using an allotted amount of time, each person takes turns handing off the notebook to the other without talking. They can only read the lines that have been written above. At the end of the designated time, partners can share their thoughts and ideas of where they were taking the story and vice versa. Each person can then decide if they want to take what they have so far and finish together or make their own version of what they started as a team.
Scribe Writing is where partners sit together and one person dictates a story while the other person writes. Again, this is a timed activity where partners can work on listening closely to what others are saying. When the time is up, the partner that wrote down what was being heard can share back the story to the partner to see if it makes sense, or if pieces of the story are missing. Again, this is not a conversation between the two, but more of a dictation of what one partner is saying to the other. After both partners have had a turn, they can take their partner's story and add to it or take their story and make changes to what was dictated.
The last tip is really all about your students. Find something that interests them. Once you meet them at their level, inquire. Ask questions; have them share stories about what they know. Take the information that they have shared with you and drive their passion. Bring in resources that support their interests and spark writing opportunities from there.
The key element to getting kids to write is confidence. Boosting their confidence in any way that you can, will inspire students to do more for you. Finding their niche, partnering them up, pumping up the crowd with writing excitement, gives students the feeling of importance. When they feel important they write because they know it is important for others to read. They find confidence within themselves. Encourage your students to be brave and WRITE ON!
Check out this Teacher Express find that also offers a number of strategies and tips for reluctant writers. Do you have tips and suggestions for reluctant writers? We’d love to hear from you!
Thank you for reading.