As a teacher, you know there are students who have the natural ability to write, or they don’t. You may also realize there are teachers who either love to teach writing, or they don’t. I am one of those teachers who love to teach writing. I love showing my kids that their ideas are important, and that there is a process for putting those ideas down on paper. If you are a teacher who is looking for basic tips and a few deeper things to think about when it comes to inspiring your students to write, you have come to the right place!
1. Allow your students to see themselves as authors.
In my classroom, if you can write words on a paper, you are an author. We celebrate the fact that we are all authors, and it is important to publish our work just like an author publishes his/her own work. We all put in our very best effort, and we encourage each other to grow each day. That is the attitude I instill in my students.
2. Read lots of narrative text.
Narrative text is the key to tapping into a child’s imaginative side when it comes to writing. Adults and children need to be able to take past experiences, what is happening in the moment, and what they have learned to apply what they learned to create a new experience. In this case, their new experience will be a story. In my classroom, exposing my students to more narrative text is just as powerful as modeling writing.
3. Assign relevant writing assignments that are applicable to your students lives.
You really have to be creative for this one. Think about what is going on at the moment. You have to get into the minds of your students in order to figure out what things mean the most to them. We know most kids enjoy communicating. In fact, sometimes, we can’t get them to stop. So think about how you can take things they enjoy communicating about orally, and get them to write those words on paper.
4. Give your students permission to make mistakes.
When I am teaching writing, I always ask myself, “Do I want my kids to focus on spelling and grammar, or do I want them to focus on writing?” There is a time and a place for all these components, but when we are writing our first drafts, we focus solely on the flow of ideas, and getting them on paper. In my classroom, I give each student a writing dictionary at the beginning of the year. The only way they can ask me to spell a word is if they have the page flipped open to the letter the word starts with and they have to hand me a pencil so I can write it for them quickly. I don’t have them write it in their dictionary on their own because it takes too much time. They are going to rewrite that word anyway, and I have to make sure I use my time wisely with all my students. If another student asks for the same word, I will direct him/her to the student I already helped, so they can have it as well. Be sure to check out my Writing Dictionary I use in my classroom!
5. Allow your students to publish and share their own writing.
However you do this is up to you. You can post writing on a bulletin board, in a collaborative book, or even online (with parental permission). Although I have never done any online publishing with my students, you just have to see how Matt Gomez uses Twitter in his kindergarten classroom. I could see students using many other platforms to publish online. Matt has opened my mind to many other online publishing ideas I could use with my kids. However you decide to publish writing, be sure to celebrate it with your students. They will be more inspired and motivated to write each time you assign a new prompt and begin the writing process cycle.
In closing, remember that when you are teaching writing, you are teaching an art. Let go of everything that vexes you about teaching writing. Know that quality will not happen right away. Accept that in order to build a community of young authors, you must dig deep to understand your students and what motivates them. Be patient because the magic will come!
I would love to hear tips and tricks for how you motivate your students to write. If you have a great idea, would you please comment below so we can learn from each other?