Encouraging Reluctant Writers to Write

So I had this really incredibly elegant post that I was going to write all about the intricacies of writing. Seriously, I was planning on making it this period piece that would stand out more than any other writing idea that’s existed since the invention of parchment.

But then something happened. I got distracted. I decided not too. Besides, writing is not fun. It has to be incredibly structured. I need to have main ideas. I needed to have topics and reflect on the structural differences between personal narratives and persuasion. So I didn’t do it.

Instead, you get this...

How do I get my reluctant writers to write?
How do I get my kids that struggle to write a single sentence in 20 minutes to be a better writer?

It’s a problem that many teachers face. It’s a problem that I actually have myself. I don’t like writing. It takes time, effort, practice, revision, and sometimes it actually makes my brain hurt.

Would it shock you to know that some of these sentences you’ve read have been erased six different times because I felt like I was never able to get my point across. If I’m having these issues, I wonder how my students are feeling.

So I gotta change it up with my students. I don’t need them to love writing, like I love coffee. But I need them to write, and I've got to find ways to encourage them along the way. I could stop hear and talk a lot about how important a growth mindset is for kids when it comes to writing…but I won’t…you already know. So instead, I’ll share some of my simpler techniques I use in my classroom to get kids putting pen to paper (or voice to text).

Round Robin
Each student gets a paper and we all write the opening sentence salvo together. Then they add their own portion of the story with another single sentence. (let me add that most of these writing activities involve creative/free writing).

Next, pass the paper to the student next to you. The next student reads the story and they continue the story by writing their own sentence. Then pass it on again. Read the story, write a sentence, pass it on. This can happen however many times you want.

On the last pass, I give the stories back to the original student so they can close out the story. Then we read our stories. And the kids love it.

FreeWrite Friday
One of my favorite writing activities is what we like to call FreeWrite Friday. This year I’ve backed off of it some, but it’s making a comeback.

We turn down the classroom lights, turn on some loud(ish) soundtrack, and write while the music is on. I typically set a timer (for myself) of 8-12 minutes in length but if students are still quiet we let it ride.

Many times I’ll give them a topic or story starter like waking up in a video game or the time they got to ride on a t-rex, real heavy hitting stuff that will bore them.

Sometimes we'll watch part of movie trailers and make predictions. Honestly, we never know what we're going to do, but it normally revolves around pop-culture.

Embed It Like Inception
I’m a project based learning kind of guy, so I like to use my resources as a gateway to get my students writing. I love to use the “why” in PBL because it forces students to tell me exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Students will fill the pages with their own ideas because it’s the only way they can share what they’ve learned. Sure, I could go over and let them tell me, but that’s not what I want. I want them to write without realizing they’re doing so and project based learning is one of the ways we get it done.

One of my favorites is where they create their own story, which you can do if you don’t write. So we go to The Island; from their they read a top secret government report, and create a story and characters from there. The less they write/produce -the smaller the story is.

Share Their Works
Whatever we write, we share. Writers need to hear others and they need to be heard. We celebrate every written work by being specific with our praise and also giving feedback for areas that will continue to need work.

Students need to be reading their works out loud.

Google Voice Typing
Writing doesn’t have to be with a pen, pencil, or keyboard. Google’s voice to text is an absolute game-changer with some of my students. For my students that write slow or have lower writing/reading skills this is a must-use. Students can speak and it writes, but you have to be using GAFE, Google Education.

I just had a student (a fourth grader) "write” his entire report with Google Voice and the whole thing took him 15 minutes to complete. (Editor’s note: This does not include editing) If he did it the traditional way, it would’ve taken 3-4 hours.

And let me just say, that this isn’t cheating. We’ve all got those kids that are filled with so many ideas, but they lack the organization skills to ever get it on paper. A beautifully thought out phrase is turned into a seven word sentence. That’s not fair for those students. Give them a tool to get them going.

For me, the core purpose of writing is to coherently get your ideas into an organized form for others to understand.

Write With Your Students
Seriously, write with your students. Or just practice writing.

I’m an honest person, I know my writing isn’t always up to par. Yet, that’s one of the main reasons I started blogging/writing in the first place—because I knew I was ungood at it. And every day I can get a bit better.

What are you’re ways that you get your reluctant writers going?

You can find more from me at Digital: Divide & Conquer where I tackle project based learning, technology,  and at home reminding my kids to turn off the lights in their rooms.