Putting the joy back into writing
Having trouble getting your students to love writing? Lack of motivation when writing was a dilemma I faced until I made a few small changes during my writing workshop to emphasize objective feedback and opportunities for feedback. engage students in relevant, authentic, and engaging writing.
Writing dilemma #1: Getting started
I tend to be a routine teacher when it comes to how I teach writing. I teach my mini-lesson, which includes opportunities for scaffolded practice in a large group, with partners, and then individually. As the students return to their desks and sit down, I too often hear “I don’t know what to write! from the same student. This particular student, whom I will call Max (pseudonym), is one of the most academically gifted students in my class, performing above grade level in all academic subjects. Every day Max insists on what to write about, which leads to a brainstorming conference with me to circulate writing ideas. Once Max has an idea, he becomes a typewriter! I started to ask myself: how can I help this student become more motivated to start each day?
I realized that I was missing an important step in the writing process. Students may want to work with a writing partner to brainstorm writing ideas before they start writing. Fien De Smedt, Steve Graham and Hilde Van Keer highlight the importance of allowing students to work in a peer-to-peer writing relationship because of the positive impact this will have on motivation to write. When students are able to link up with a writing partner and discuss topics to write about daily, they can help each other and spark ideas, leading to greater independence from school. ‘teacher.
Writing Dilemma #2: Assigning Topics
Another writing dilemma that students often face is that they are not interested in the writing topic assigned to them by the teacher. Often students are not able to relate to a specific topic that the teacher assigns. If students cannot relate to the topic, motivation to write plummets. By allowing flexibility in writing topics, students can choose an area that interests them. Teachers can always provide a general guideline on how a writing assignment should be completed and even give a list of ideas topics that could be chosen. What happens if a student still can’t find a topic in the list provided by the teacher? Allow students to exit writing topics if they can continue to follow the writing guidelines.
Writing dilemma #3: Choosing challenging activities
As teachers, we constantly differentiate ourselves in our classroom to meet the reading and math needs of our students. Why not do the same for our writers? When students find the writing activities challenging enough to succeed and achieve the writing goal, then they will be more motivated to write. Researchers Shui-fong Lam and Yin-kum Law state that “a difficult but achievable task is motivating because it improves students’ perceived value and their expectation of success.” When writing tasks are too easy or too difficult and not in the right learning zone, students will not be motivated to complete the assignment. It is our job as teachers to make sure these activities are achievable so students can feel they are succeeding. One way to do this is to adjust the length of a writing assignment to meet the needs of each writer. If a student struggles with writing, keeping the goal shorter may be more motivating for the student.
Writing dilemma #4: Providing feedback
During my early years of teaching, I often found myself with my colored pen correcting spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors on my students’ writing assignments. I was never taught how to teach writing properly when I graduated from undergrad. Proper training on how to teach writing is key to motivating writers. I soon learned that letting my students write phonetically and leaving their writing with misspellings was part of the writing process for elementary school students. Teachers should work towards a growth mindset with their students, which will in turn lead to motivation in writing. When giving feedback to students, it is important to find the positives in their work. Providing objective feedback on a student’s writing instead of critiquing mistakes will help students feel positive about their progress.
By making small adjustments to your writing routine, your students will feel more motivated to write. Allowing students to choose topics of interest is one way to motivate your students. Another way is to provide challenging tasks while allowing them to feel successful as writers. Finally, providing objective and positive feedback will help students develop a growth mindset. By incorporating these goals into your writing instruction, you will motivate your students to become enthusiastic and motivated about writing.
Juliana Ekren is a graduate student at Concordia St. Paul University in Minnesota.