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January 17, 2014

Use Essay Contests to Start Your Own Student Writing Club

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    I am always looking for ways to motivate my students in our writing workshop sessions. Usually the announcement of writing workshop is met with mixed reviews: some eager to get started and some who would rather have extra homework. I am concerned and have great angst regarding my students having the stamina to write with volume. The mantra we use in my classroom is that we write with the intention to "write long and strong."

    The students are constantly being reminded to increase their volume in their writer’s notebook. Students are required to write one to two pages in their writer's notebooks daily, leaning more towards two pages by June. Imagine a struggling or reluctant writer being faced with the task of generating two pages of words. It is difficult to excite students who feel overwhelmed before they even start writing.

    In my quest to try something new, I decided to start a student writing club with a focus on entering writing contests. Now, writing/essay contests are not something new. They have been around for many years. In the past, I have presented the contest information to the students and allow them to make the decision to enter or not. I am aware that not everyone will want to sign up for this writing club, but my rationale is to start small with a core group to get the club off the ground. I have learned that students are more likely to participate when they see success and hear the buzz that their peers create. And it won’t hurt that I am starting the club in the winter during indoor recess. With this approach, it is my desire that the core students who sign up will be role models and influence the reluctant students.

     

    Putting the Plan Into Action

    My core group has been selected and is eager to get started. They are really excited that the club is during indoor recess. They are not at all concerned about coming back to the classroom. Actually, it was kind of cute to see them get excited with this notion of a “working lunch.”

     

    Writing Club Core Members

      
     
     
      
     
     
      
     

    The first meeting will consist of setting a schedule and coming up with a name and logo for the club.  Some of the writing club members are in my homeroom and already discussing names and logos. Their ideas so far are:

    Club Names

    Mrs. Stewart’s Rockin’ Writers

    Fast and Furious Writers

    SGS Writers

    Oz-standing Writer’s Club

    Logo Ideas

    Writer notebook and pen

    Laptop/computer

     

    I have access to laptops for all of my students, so I decided that all student work would be completed using technology. It’s just another way of keeping the students motivated and they love working on laptops.

    I have already chosen the first essay contest for my club to enter: the Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers, In Sports, In Life contest sponsored by Scholastic and Major League Baseball. At first glance, one would think that this is all about baseball. But in reality, it gives students a chance to talk about an obstacle that they have overcome or a barrier that they have broken through using one of Jackie Robinson’s nine values (courage, persistence, justice, determination, integrity, commitment, teamwork, excellence, and citizenship). The students will have the opportunity to reflect upon moments in their lives and give those moments a voice.

    Wish us luck with our essays! I will keep you posted to let you know how the club is progressing and update you with any other available writing contests.

    I am always looking for ways to motivate my students in our writing workshop sessions. Usually the announcement of writing workshop is met with mixed reviews: some eager to get started and some who would rather have extra homework. I am concerned and have great angst regarding my students having the stamina to write with volume. The mantra we use in my classroom is that we write with the intention to "write long and strong."

    The students are constantly being reminded to increase their volume in their writer’s notebook. Students are required to write one to two pages in their writer's notebooks daily, leaning more towards two pages by June. Imagine a struggling or reluctant writer being faced with the task of generating two pages of words. It is difficult to excite students who feel overwhelmed before they even start writing.

    In my quest to try something new, I decided to start a student writing club with a focus on entering writing contests. Now, writing/essay contests are not something new. They have been around for many years. In the past, I have presented the contest information to the students and allow them to make the decision to enter or not. I am aware that not everyone will want to sign up for this writing club, but my rationale is to start small with a core group to get the club off the ground. I have learned that students are more likely to participate when they see success and hear the buzz that their peers create. And it won’t hurt that I am starting the club in the winter during indoor recess. With this approach, it is my desire that the core students who sign up will be role models and influence the reluctant students.

     

    Putting the Plan Into Action

    My core group has been selected and is eager to get started. They are really excited that the club is during indoor recess. They are not at all concerned about coming back to the classroom. Actually, it was kind of cute to see them get excited with this notion of a “working lunch.”

     

    Writing Club Core Members

      
     
     
      
     
     
      
     

    The first meeting will consist of setting a schedule and coming up with a name and logo for the club.  Some of the writing club members are in my homeroom and already discussing names and logos. Their ideas so far are:

    Club Names

    Mrs. Stewart’s Rockin’ Writers

    Fast and Furious Writers

    SGS Writers

    Oz-standing Writer’s Club

    Logo Ideas

    Writer notebook and pen

    Laptop/computer

     

    I have access to laptops for all of my students, so I decided that all student work would be completed using technology. It’s just another way of keeping the students motivated and they love working on laptops.

    I have already chosen the first essay contest for my club to enter: the Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers, In Sports, In Life contest sponsored by Scholastic and Major League Baseball. At first glance, one would think that this is all about baseball. But in reality, it gives students a chance to talk about an obstacle that they have overcome or a barrier that they have broken through using one of Jackie Robinson’s nine values (courage, persistence, justice, determination, integrity, commitment, teamwork, excellence, and citizenship). The students will have the opportunity to reflect upon moments in their lives and give those moments a voice.

    Wish us luck with our essays! I will keep you posted to let you know how the club is progressing and update you with any other available writing contests.

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