By Teachers, For Teachers
How many times have you seen your students sitting there with pencil in hand staring into outer space? Or how many times have you heard the all-too-familiar words, “I can’t think of anything to write!”
How can children who always seem to have so much to say not be able to think of anything to write when we ask them to?
Writing is an essential tool for learning, and when students realize that writing is simply another way of communicating through a pencil versus your lips, it will make that much more of sense to them.
Challenge students to search their family photos, and look through magazines, books, newspapers, or even the Sunday funnies to find a little writing inspiration. Have them cut out all of the pictures that inspire them, and glue those pictures to their writing journal. When it’s time to write, all students have to do is look at one of their pictures for a little inspiration.
Graphic organizers are great for visual learners, and anyone who needs to see their ideas in an organized manner. Try using a story map to motivate students and get them writing.
Get your audio recording gear out and let students record their writing. This is a fun way for students speak what they want to say versus actually printing it.
With so many speak-to-text apps out on the market, it may be hard to choose just one. If you can’t find one that you love, then just open a blank e-mail and have students tap the microphone button so it will transcribe everything that they are saying. It’s a fun and unique way for students to write their essay or story. If you like, you can then have students print out what they just wrote, and use that as their first draft.
Pair students together into teams of two, and have each student take turns writing down what the other person says. Students will get a kick out of having their partner do all the writing for them!
One of the easiest strategies to get students writing is to give them a story starter or writing prompt (e.g. create a new type of cookie, what are the ingredients and what is the name of it? Or my favorite holiday is ____ because ___ ).
Encourage students to make up a name. (e.g Jasper Jenkins) Then have them picture what a person with that name looks like, and where they came from (e.g. Jasper Jenkins is a man from the 1920s who is skinny and has dark brown hair). Encourage students to think of more details about their character that they created, like where they work, if they have a family, or any other details that they can think of. This is a fun way to develop a story.
A fun and creative way to get students writing is to have them create a writing wheel that they can spin each time they need something to write about. As a class, brainstorm ideas and write them on your wheel. Students can then take turns spinning the wheel when it’s time to write to see what they have to write about.
A little friendly competition is always good for children. Create a writing contest where students compete not only against each other but their peers online too. Look for an online contest like from Myhero.com where students can submit essays about their heroes. It’s a great way to teach students to write from their heart.
To get and keep students engaged try integrating artwork into their writing. Allow students to brainstorm their writing ideas through pictures and drawings or just add them to their stories. Whichever way you choose will be equally effective.
The ultimate goal is to have students use their cognitive thinking skills to communicate their ideas. Whether it’s on paper or through their lips, the whole point is to get your students to express their thoughts without hesitation. Once students truly understand that writing is just another way of communicating, the walls will come down, and they will be able to pick up a pencil and convey their thoughts freely.
How do you get your students writing? Do you have any tips or tricks that you would like to share? Feel free to comment in the section below, we would love to hear 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.