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Writing in the Classroom: Engagement and Motivation
How do you motivate and engage students to write in your class? I don’t only mean writing that is graded, I mean just writing. A better question may be-Do you let your students “just write?” I know I have struggled with providing time to let kids write, but this year I have found myself giving more time for it and really enjoying it. (I think the kids enjoy it too.)
How do I motivate and engage my students? How do I keep them going during the 4th quarter slump? Here are some of my ideas. I would love to hear yours. Students-I need you to share too!
The first thing that will help students be more motivated is to give them time. I have learned that if I want anything done, I must give class time for it. I give reading time. I give work time. I give writing time. I have found that providing that time also encourages those students to carry it over at home. If they are in a good part of their story they are writing, they write at home. Giving them a starting point, showing them they can write, will give them the boost they need to write more outside your classroom.
I have promised writing time each day to my students. We powerwrite on Monday for five minutes. Tuesday thru Thursday is choice writing for 5-10 minutes. Their choices include typing, revising, editing, and blogs. The only expectations are that they are focused and improving. On Friday, we share.
After deciding to devote time to writing, you sometimes have to come up with new ideas and activities to keep the ideas going for their writing. It is easy to have writer’s block. It is common. Finding ways to create new ideas is important in keeping motivation and engagement up.
Powerwriting is a favorite for my students. I go into more detail on what powerwriting here. The main goal is to write without stopping. You can have a prompt. You can just write. The goal is stamina. Keeping your mind going and getting all of your ideas out. They sometimes do not make sense, but you can go back and revise later. Just write.
I love watching my students powerwrite. They are always so focused and try to write as much as they possibly can. We sometimes compete against each other, or ourselves.
Another activity I like to do to encourage more ideas for writing is Marathon Writing. I take the students on a walk, which they love, inside and outside the school with their journal. We stop every now and then and powerwrite for five minutes. We use our surroundings or whatever is on our mind and just write. It is a lot of fun and I found myself finding better inspiration for writing than I would have in the classroom.
Round Robin Writing
This is a group activity and their are two versions.
Version 1: Students write for one minute on their paper or computer. After one minute, they rotate to the next person’s writing. They read what is written and add to it for a minute. You keep rotating and adding to stories. I usually do about five rounds. Then, you have the students return to their writing, read, revise, edit, and end the story. These stories are fun and offer a chance to see other’s styles of writing and ideas.
Version 2: The second version is the same as the first, but adds a challenge. Each sentence must start with the same word that the previous sentence ended with.
Blogs or Audience
Having an audience larger than the teacher, the classroom, or the school is important. It is so important. Having people outside their community reading their writing and providing feedback gives their writing a more real feeling.
I like to use blogs to reach larger audiences and I help by tweeting or sharing their blogs through social media.
The best website I have found to really reach a huge audience is Night Zookeeper. The age range is for beginning writers to about age 12. There are some free features, but to fully utilize this website, it does cost. Our school has decided it is well worth the cost because of the wide audience (it is worldwide), teacher controlled, student centered, creativity with drawing, and integration of lessons. They also have fun writing competitions like a World Creative Writing Month which is a competition amongst schools for the most words written in the month March and the International Writing Cup, which is a competition amongst individuals for the best writing across all genres. You can view more about Night Zookeeper here.
Come up with writing activities that feel less like work and more like fun. Keep the kids guessing on what you will come up with. Some ideas include an egg drop where you drop a raw egg on the floor and have them write from various perspectives. Trust me, you will have their attention when you drop an egg on the floor during a lesson!
Write With Them
If you do it, they will have more buy in. I firmly believe that students need to know that what you are assigning is worthwhile and the best way to show that is to write with them. Whatever activity, write next to them. Sit with them at their desk. I know, there are times where you need to assist, but participate as much as you can. You could even write beforehand and share! Just show them that it is worth your time, so it should be worth theirs.
Meriting should be fun. It is social. Let them share. Let them talk. Let them be silly. Get them excited and they will write.
I hope this was helpful. Do you have any ideas I should add? Students-thoughts?