The Writing Inclination
A recent article in the School Library Journal addresses a commonly heard statement in education: “Kids hate to write.” The article suggests that kids do write, and that the Internet is offering more opportunities than ever before to do so. The article even suggests some online writing tools and apps to use with kids, many of which I use in my classroom.
Still, though, the author wrote, “How do we help our students harness the inclination–the cultural imperative to write–so that they can become better academic writers?”
Five Strategies to Use with Students
I want to share several beliefs and practices about how I entice kids to believe in writing and see themselves as writers.
- As the teacher, I write.
I complete every assignment along with my students. Sometimes I prepare examples before class, while other times I write on-demand as we contribute to writing ideas together. As students see me as a writer, they gain confidence in their own writing.
- I let kids choose their own topics.
I have standards that I have to cover and model curricula to use, but those resources never say that I have to have all of my students complete an essay on the same topic. Rather, these resources say that I have to give students opportunities to write in various genres over different lengths of time, so I give students opportunities to do that. A student’s writing is much better when she chooses a topic that interests her.
- I teach students to use reading as a guide for writing.
I have learned so much from using exemplars for writing–from sentence structures and the organization of an argument, to word variety and character creation. I offer student these same opportunities to explore their reading to use for writing. For many students, this practice gives them the structure they need to make a personally important topic shine.
- I offer consistent writing opportunities.
We write every day. Sometimes it is genre-specific work, sometimes it is just a quick write, and sometime we just doodle. But we write every day. When students can have a consistent experiences with writing, they begin to look forward to writing.
- I give feedback on writing.
The feedback a teacher gives writers should encourage growth. I use a very defined structure each day with students: a compliment related to a recent standard (I notice…); a question about the feelings of the writer; a suggestion, sometimes with an example (Can I offer a next step?); and an offer to revisit the writing when the writer has made a decision. Kids say that they enjoy feedback and want as much as possible.
Borrowing the idea from Ruth Ayres’ video, I have created a video to take a look at the notebook life in our middle school classroom. I hope that you can find use for it to encourage your classes to write every day.
Amy Gurney is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for Bloomfield Hills School District. She was a facilitator for the release of the MAISA units of study. She has studied, researched, and practiced reading and writing workshop through Oakland Schools, The Teacher’s College, and action research projects. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education at Central Michigan University and a Master’s in Educational Administration at Michigan State University.