I know all too well how difficult it is to drum up excitement around a long writing assignment. First comes the loud sigh, then questions on how many paragraphs or pages the assignment must be. Finally, there’s the infamous, “I don’t know what to write about” response.
Nowadays, the most common kind of writing happens in small chunks – text messages, social media posts and emojis. Detailed fiction or nonfiction writing might seem daunting to a student. However, teachers can train students to appreciate the written word. Here’s how to make writing attractive again, build students’ writing stamina and possibly even inspire some students to consider a career in the field.
Write About Themselves in the Third Person
Have students look at themselves from multiple outside perspectives. This can be eye-opening, spark creativity and generate enough material that students can write for an extended period of time. For example, have them write about an emotional memory they had with a family member or friend but from the other person’s perspective, referencing themselves in the third person. This can encourage them to focus on behavior and analyze their own character traits.
Write A Review
Young people are very critical, whether it’s of their own school system, their parents, teacher, our government, video games, the music they listen to or any number of other things. Why not have them write positive or negative reviews on a product or service and post their review online? This practices their persuasive writing skills, shows their opinions are valuable and can make a real impact. Bonus: Give students extra credit if their review receives an official response.
Write Like the Writer
When reading writers with distinctive styles such as Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway and Zora Neale Hurston, teachers can kill two birds with one stone: Get students to analyze their writing style by imitating it in poetic verse or narratives. Students can practice the art of storytelling, rhyme, line breaks, voice, word choice and revision. To make it extra fun, have them read the work of their peers and guess which writer they are imitating.
Write a Silent Conversation
When it comes to topics that pique their interest, students love to talk and debate about it. So I allow students to go back and forth on these topics in what I call “silent conversations.” Instead of saying it out loud, they write their thoughts and opinions down. This allows students to not just work on adding details to their writing, but practice conventions, vocabulary and handwriting. They also must be active readers, analyzing what their partner wrote so they can find the best way to respond.
Write with Familiar Names
Nothing gets my students more interested in reading than when I use their names in the text. They feel more connected to the story, laugh at what their characters do and they always want to add to the story. Have them write their own narratives using classmates as characters. (Make sure to set ground rules around using their classmates respectfully!)
Great ideas are sometimes held hostage in the minds of our young scholars, and they just need the opportunity and time to uncover them. Give students brainstorming time to write down those ideas, whatever they might be – business ideas, educational goals, ways to invest money, how to create positive change in their communities – in whatever format works for them (e.g. bullet points, poetic verse, word webs, etc.). Make this a recurring activity so students can build up a brainstorming bank. This type of written free association can improve writing stamina and tap into students’ wellspring of creativity.All of these writing activities can increase creativity, curiosity and writing stamina. Try to do one each day and set a timer that increases by five minutes each time to further build stamina. Students will build their writing skills, speed and ability to write in multiple genres.
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