Middle school students love options! By providing choices during writing workshop, you will increase student excitement and engagement about the writing process.
Here are ways to do just that.
The difficulty of teaching writing
Well, let’s be honest. Teaching writing is really, really hard work!
All of our students are at different levels.
In one way, this is good: there is room for growth for every student and writing instruction naturally becomes differentiated because we are dealing with the individual needs of our students.
In another way, this is bad: we are working hard to meet the needs of all students. We need to get them from point A to point B. They move at different paces. How do we keep moving forward?
We want to give students choices. However, it’s difficult to allow students to choose what to write when we have to teach a narrative, a persuasive essay, an argument, comparison contrast, etc. etc. Not to mention, students need to learn how respond to a timed writing prompt.
It is often easier to just give the assignment and move forward from there.
Does choice matter?
We have all read those “dead” essays from students. And the higher grade you teach, the more often you see this!
Writing that has all the life and energy squeezed out of it. No voice. No passion, no interest.
Grade a stack of those and you’ll be crying!!
We don’t want to create “dead” writing and writers who don’t care about what they are composing!!
By giving students choices of what they are writing, we can give them their voice, passion, and energy. We can help them to LOVE WRITING!
Start with writing workshop
Writing workshop is a great way to give students choice about what they are going to write about.
The keys to effective writing workshop include:
- providing students the opportunity to write on a regular basis
- allowing students to find topics and ideas that they are interested in
- consistently providing opportunities for students to practice their writing skills
They can use their ideas and interests to write whatever mode (narrative, persuasive, expository, etc.) you want them to tackle.
But what’s better:
You can provide individual help, encouragement, guidance, and support through mini lessons and conferences.
Provide writing choices
If you’re implementing writing workshop in your classroom, your students have already started on the path of writing about what they are passionate about, interested in, or feel some measure of expertise about.
What are some ways to provide choices?
1.Use a writer’s notebook. Spend time generating ideas. Have students set up their notebooks at the start of the year, designate pages for “ideas.” This is where students can go for inspiration for a writing topic.
But don’t stop there.
Be sure you provide ways for students to capture their ideas. This will ensure they have choices when they are ready to write.
2. Offer daily writing prompts. This is more than just a warm up where students correct a sentence of the day. Provide open-ended prompts.
3. Choice boards.
4. Free writing. Set the timer and have students write about any topic.
5. Lists (and more lists). Ask students to list favorite places, pet peeves, happiest memories, funniest school event, best Halloween costume, favorite toys as a kid, most valued possession, important moments, personal expertise, etc.
These lists are helpful as you begin teaching a new writing genre.
For example, a list of pet peeves is a good place to start to generate ideas for a persuasive or argument essay.
6. Question of the day or “would you rather” question. After students answer, they need to explain their response. These are perfect for middle school — fully of quirkiness!
7. Sentence starters. Provide a portion of a sentence — and allow students to complete it.
For example, “I never thought I could …” or “I was so surprised when…”
8. Always be generating! This is an area students can always be adding to.
Manage student work
Provide time for students to generate ideas and practice thinking and considering.
You may want to spend one day a week on idea generation, or this may be something you want to focus on for the first few weeks of writing workshop while you set up your routine.
In order for this activity to be meaningful and worthwhile, and not just busy work, have students go back to these ideas when they are ready to start working on a writing project.
Use these as the “ideas” portion of the writing process — an area where so many kids get stuck and say, “I don’t know what to write about.”
Giving students choice on what they write about and the mode in which it’s written puts the power back into students’ hands. Not only that, but in the real world — our students will be writing letters of complaint, business proposals, notes of condolence, emails to explain or convince, blog posts to explain opinions… the list goes on.
We can teach the writing mode (persuasion, narrative) and then push the students to use their writer’s notebooks to find their voice, opinion, thoughts, and feelings about a topic.
Rinse and repeat
Once you’ve started this process, the next time through will be so much easier!
Continue working and adapting to meet your students’ needs!
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Still need a bit more help? You can find a list of FAQ and answers in this post.
With gratitude for all you do,