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Teaching Strategies to Benefit Your Students’ Writing

Janelle Cox

The writing process is just that: A process. It takes time to learn to be an effective writer, and it is an essential skill regardless of the type of work you do.

Today’s educators are continuing to look for teaching strategies that will engage their student writers, as well as improve their own teaching effectiveness. With that in mind, here are ten teaching strategies that you can employ in your classroom that will benefit your students’ writing.

1. Teaching Strategies: Always Give a Handout

When giving out a writing assignment, don’t just verbally tell your students what you expect of them, but give them a handout that they can refer to as well. This way your students will have your actual words in the back of their mind, as well as be able to reference the assignment sheet that you gave them. Most of the time, the first step in writing is when a student refers to the assignment sheet. This is what they will refer to time and time again to make sure that they are getting it right.

2. Have Students Write Daily

Get students to write daily in some form or another. Whether it’s a draft for an essay, a literary response, or a journal entry, daily doses of writing will make them a stronger writer. The more they write, the better they will get at it, and the easier it will become.

3. Situate Desks for Informal Discussions

The best way for students to work and really learn from each other is by situating their desks together, or facing one another. This way, students learn to talk about their writing face-to-face, and are able to give and receive feedback from each other. Over time, students will internalize these classroom discussions and learn how to put their own words (that they are giving to their classmates) into their own writing.

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4. Always Give Feedback

Give immediate feedback if you can, and if you cannot, then make sure it is within a timely matter. Just a few sentences from the teacher or a peer can prompt more thinking and writing from the student. Try to aim to give feedback within a day or two of the first assignment, and keep in mind that a few quick sentences of feedback right away, is better than a whole page of feedback weeks later.

5. Grade Only Final Papers and Projects

Steer away from grading any first drafts or informal writing. Remember, the whole point of the writing process is to teach students to try and not write the final copy on the first try. Drafts are considered “not completed work” and if you try and grade one, then you are sending the message that a draft should look completed.

6. Read and Re-Read Students’ Work

Don’t just take out your red pen and start marking a paper the first time you read it. Take a moment and read it through one time with your pen down. Then, take second look at the paper more closely and make a few comments. This method forces you to become a reader the first time through, not an editor. You can get a real sense of what the reader is trying to tell you the first time around. By the second time through, you will have processed what your student may be lacking in their paper.

7. Don’t Point Out Every Error

The last thing that you want to do is give a student their paper back filled with red marks that corrected their work for them. Do not copyedit your students’ work, just offer a few suggestions. For example, if you see the same mistake time and time again, just show them once and make a note for them to find their own errors. Students will eventually be able to see their misunderstanding and correct this, which will lead to lasting learning on their part.

8. Show Students Their Potential

Feedback and critiques don’t just have to be about what a student did wrong. Try and underline what’s promising and what has potential in their writing. This will help guide and encourage a student to become aware of what they are good at. Let the student know that the underlined sentences means they made a great point, or it was well-written.

9. Always Give Feedback on the First Draft

Students that know they have to write a second draft will take the time to look at your comments to see what they did wrong, and what they did right. They can then take these comments and apply them to their second draft. Here are some things that are essential to comment on: Main idea, organization, writer’s voice, focus, and language.

10. Write When Students are Writing

Students learn by what they see. If you want your students to be good writers, then you must show them what that looks like. If you ask them to free write for ten minutes, then free write with them. If you ask them to share their writing, then you share your writing too. By joining your students, you are showing your commitment to writing.

What do you do that benefits your students writing? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to her your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.