I’ve seen a lot of teachers ask “How do I make writing more engaging?” ? Writing takes a lot of work which makes it a pain point for many students. For teachers, writing instruction is a delicate balance of guidance and feedback. Here are some simple strategies that will boost student engagement in writing.
My top advice: don’t overthink it. And here are a couple of other tips, too…
Write, Type, and then Write some more
Some things to consider
How will they share their writing with you? Iron out your routines for how you will provide feedback and manage conferences with students to provide 1:1 support. If students write in journals, how often will you review them? If they are using a computer program, how will you hold them accountable? These are all things to consider as you set up your writing procedures.
How will you provide feedback? Guiding students in setting their own writing goals helps with building confidence. Giving specific, constructive feedback is crucial in helping students improve. Keep it simple and focus on one thing at a time. Resist the urge to get out the red pen and correct every single error. Instead, try to let go of “perfection” and value the small steps of progress. I let a lot of the spelling and conventions go to the wayside while we focus on the content of our writing first.
Provide Authentic Opportunities
Provide authentic opportunities for writing. This means providing an audience beyond your classroom.
- Pen pals: My eyes swelled up as my students ripped open the envelopes to read their first pen pal letters. It was the ultimate teacher moment! Try asking around in teacher FB groups to connect with someone in a different state to write to. It is SO worth it!
- Have students record themselves reading their writing to share with another teacher or staff member in your building.
- Create a class or school newspaper. This would be a great way to collaborate across grade levels.
- Write a letter or email to an organization.
- Brainstorm a list of helpful people in your school or community. Write an email or letter thanking people for their hard work.
- Invite another class to come to listen to your students’ published writing pieces!
Keep it short
One of my favorite strategies that will boost student engagement in writing is to keep lessons short. Writing lessons should always be brief and to the point. This was always tough for me until I started supplementing with writing videos from @teachingwithoutfrills (Check out Hillary’s YouTube page).
- Read your mentor text during another part of your day or record it to be watched beforehand. Refer back to a specific section or page that connects with your lesson.
- DO NOT model writing an entire writing piece. Write a sentence, page, or small section. Focus on how you are incorporating the skill.
- Set a timer for yourself during your mini-lesson to ensure you don’t go over. Less is more!
- Write 1 sentence for the goal of your mini-lesson. Repeat it at the beginning, middle, and end of your lesson to stay on track.
Give them feedback
Provide timely feedback and encourage revisiting previous writing pieces for editing and revision. Create a culture of going back to improve instead of always starting something new. This will help keep students engaged and decrease writing burnout.
These monthly digital writing journals on Google Slides have features to support independent writing virtually. I’ve also included a space to provide feedback directly on the page. Whether the feedback is written or verbal, it should be timely and concise. Each prompt includes a writing checklist and a tool to support getting started such as sentence starters, ideas to brainstorm or a word bank.