Teaching Tip – Get Them Writing

Student In Uttaradit 1Image via Wikipedia

Our students need to be writing every day.

Unfortunately, some of my students don’t see a purpose behind their morning journal. I have students who simply won’t start writing anything. They will talk to their classmates, play in their desk, sharpen their pencils for the third time, or anything else they can think of to waste away the twenty minutes of journal time.

I have other students who will scribble down a sentence or two as quickly as they can so they can then waste the rest of the time.

What can we do to motivate students to write?

The first thing I did was to change the morning journal time on the schedule to the term “writing.”

It’s a small change but one that I think has huge implications. It lets the students know that we are all writers.

Model writing

I write every single day and make sure my students are aware of that. During their morning writing time, I am working on lesson plans. I also show them blog entries that I think might be of interest to them. They see that I am a writer. That is important.

We are all writers

I teach my students about the writing process. We learn how each of us has something to say and share.

Use prompts

Some students need a little push to be creative. However, I have found that requiring students to write to a prompt stifles their creativity. I let my students write about something else if they ask.

A simple recap of their night is not enough

There is nothing more annoying than reading the same journal entry from the same student every day. I can’t tell you how many times I have a read a journal that told this story; I went home, I played video games, so-and-so came over, I went to bed.

We need get our students writing something more significant. I ask my students to pick one of those things and to write specific details about it instead.

Use Picture Prompts

Instead of having the students complete a sentence starter or answering a question, you can put an image up on the board and ask them to write an open response to that image. After all, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

I have found that picture prompts are quite useful and my students respond really well to them. Learn more about Picture Prompts. 

Use technology

You can have your students create digital stories on Storybird (more about this site in an upcoming teaching tip.)

Your school probably has a number of other computer programs you can get your students using. There are quite a few free websites that allow you to create comics or picture stories as well.

My students respond quite well to using technology. It motivates them to create.

Whatever works

Each classroom is different. You need to find what works for you and your students. I am constantly thinking of new ways to cultivate a new generation of writers. That is my goal. Hopefully, we can get them writing and enjoying it so that it carries on outside of the classroom.

Contribute a Teaching Tip

I hope you find my Teaching Tip Tuesday series to be useful in your teaching practice. Make sure you check out the archive for over 80 practical tips and strategies you can use in the classroom. If you have as tip you’d like to contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below. Thanks!

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6 responses to “Teaching Tip – Get Them Writing”

  1. I love the idea of having the students write in response to a picture, so much better than a journal entry! Great way to pull out some creativity!

  2. Hi Michelle,

    I got this idea from a PD workshop last year. The presenter called it "Open Response" since the students were free to respond in any way they chose to the image that was presented.

    I will be writing in detail about it for next week's Teaching Tip Tuesday post.

    Please come back then! Thanks for the comment!

  3. Writing is thinking, brain to pen to paper. It is expressing what is going on inside our heads. It doesn't have to be flowery and poetic. It can be harsh and discordant, terse and tight.

    We humans have an inborn NEED to write — soldiers scribbled on the walls of their WWII transport ships on the way to battle; Daniel Boone wrote about the "bare" he killed on some tree in Kentucky; local characters wage verbal battle in the letters to the editor pages of community newspapers everywhere.

    A generation that sees no need to write, is a generation that perhaps is not pondering much of anything at all — that is numbed by video games and general lethargy, and allowing other people to do its thinking. Sad for a soul; deadly for a democracy.

  4. Hi Chase .. good post – writing is communication isn't it – something we'll need later on .. whether we're a doctor, an artist, a musician etc

    Another thought – give them nine words and ask them to write a story around those words .. but bringing other aspects into their writing and commenting .. is great ..

    How about a class blog?

    Cheers Hilary

  5. Hi ECD,

    Good to see you again.

    I completely agree with you. I want to inspire my students to write so they can see the value in it. I hope I serve as a good model for them too.

  6. Hi Hilary,

    Great ideas.

    I think I will try the nine words idea with them very soon.

    I have a class blog that I could utilize a little better too.

    Thanks for reminding me.