Inspiring Young Writers

Teaching writing is hard. Let's just be honest. There is no formula, rule or key to being a good writer. Helping students find their voice can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding parts of a teacher's job. The road to get here, however, can be full of tears and frustration (for both the students and teacher) if it isn't something you intentionally plan for and make time for each day. I am not an expert on teaching writing, but I have learned some tricks along the way. As we start a new year I would like to share some tips and tricks to successful writing instruction. 1 - IT TAKES TIME! Nothing improves without being given time. I know your schedule is cramped and you never seem to find the time to fit in other subjects beyond those frequently tested, but it is worth the effort. Start by looking at your schedule...where can you fit it in? Maybe just 20 minutes a day to start, but you have to start! Find the time and stick to it! 2 - Let them write for fun! Sometimes it is ok to not be writing a perfect paragraph or essay. At times it is best to give students time to write how they would like to write. Maybe it is a rap or a play or a crazy graphic novel. It may not fit your agenda, but if it gets your students to begin to love writing it is well worth it! 3 - Help students find success with writing!  At any writing conference or sharing time be sure to start by stressing the positive. They cannot fix every minute detail in a writing piece so begin by giving them 1 or 2 cheers and 1 wish (something you would like for them to work on). Keep track of this wish and check back with the student to see how they are doing on this area of improvement. Another way to help your students feel successful in writing is using writing sprints. My class loves to build writing stamina with this trick. Here is how it is done: Present an interesting journal/writing topic and explain to students that they will need to write on this topic for 1 minute without stopping. Tell them to go and time it for one minute. At the end of one minute stop the class and see how many of them want to keep going! Assure them that they can continue their work another time. The next day (or week) add some time to your sprint with a new topic. Continue until your sprints can go for about 3 minutes without any student's pencil leaving their paper. They will begin to see that writing does not have to be a daunting task. 4 - Find topics that fit their interest!  So many teachers use the same old boring journal prompts and topics. You need to mix it up and find a different way to peak their interest. Maybe it is with a music video - my students had a ton to say about Taylor Swift's "Mean" video and made a great character lesson!
Ever try inspiring writing with some google images - showing just a picture and asking students to respond can be very powerful.  On a recent writing prompt I gave students 3 pictures to choose from.  Check out the last images I tried out with my students.  It was amazing the responses I guidelines except to write at least a paragraph (could be a narrative, opinion, ANYTHING GOES).  One student wrote an amazing opinion on why fruit has no business in an ice cream sundae, another wrote about the places he would go in his brand new pair of Jordan's, while a third student wrote a narrative from the dog's perspective anxiously waiting for his owners to get home.

Another strategy I have used to inspire my writers is with videos and quotes.  One of my favorite sources for young writers is Kid President.  His videos are adorable and so approachable for kids.  The quotes that you can get from these videos are priceless!  One easy video to start with (and a great thing to go along with the messages of Dr. Martin Luther King) is "20 Things We Should Say More Often."  After watching the video, have your student's brainstorm some ideas of things they should say more often.  You can turn this into your own video like Kid President with each student getting a turn to share their favorite idea or have students write an opinion essay on how saying their one favorite idea from brainstorming will make the world a better place.  I created a fun pack of inspirational quote posters from Kid President.  Even better...most posters have a QR code link that takes you directly to the Kid President video where the quote originated!

Happy Writing!

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