Do you plan writing projects and provide students with an assignment sheet? Doing so can help you focus instruction and improve student outcomes.
Here are some quick steps help you plan your own projects:
First, you get a great idea…
You are driving home from school, listening to the radio, and daydreaming…suddenly an amazing idea pops into your head for your next writing assignment. It’s perfect! It’s stellar! Your students will love it.
You tell your students about it the next day, and set them to work on it. And then…the train goes off off the rails. The assignment that you thought was so clear and wonderful has been misinterpreted by your students.
Enter writing assignment planning: Do you need one?
Planning out and writing an assignment sheet for your students is critical in helping them:
- understand an assignment
- know what is required
- comprehend and apply a rubric or assignment requirements
Planning an assignment sheet will help you determine:
- what you want students to produce (paper, video, speech, slide show, etc.)
- the elements you will be assessing
- how you will assess
- the timeline for the project
(Download a sample student project you can use & a worksheet for planning your own writing projects.⇩)
Plan writing projects: Step-by-step
Because you know your students best, creating your own writing assignments — designed around their interests, strengths, and needs — will serve them better than a random prompt from a textbook.
So how to get started:
- Give the assignment a title.
- What is the writing mode you want students to create? Narrative, persuasive, opinion? Do you want them to create a research project or tell a story?
- What will the prompt be? Do you want to direct the topic (write about your trip to the zoo) or do you want it open (write about an interesting experience)? As you are considering this — remember that it can be super boring to read 50 student essays about a trip to the zoo!! (You might be interested in this post on creating a writing RAFT for this step)
- Determine the final product. Are you putting a word count on it or can it be any length? Should it be hand written, typed, illustrated, or written with a quill pen (jk!!)
- Determine the timeline. A writing scheduler will help tremendously with this. Be sure to build in a few extra days to adjust for disruptions to your schedule or reteaching.
- Decide how it will be assessed (more on that in a second).
Additional add ons:
- You may want to let your students know what elements you’ll be working on in class and what you expect them to do on their own. Stating, “We’ll be working on this project during our writing workshop time” will help your students understand when and where they are expected to do the writing.
- You may also want to let them know if you’ll be focusing on any special writing skill. For example, “We’ll be focusing on creating smooth transitions.”
- Include any specific details you want included. This might include research information or a works cited page.
- Clarify and narrow the topic. If your students are writing a “how to,” will you be okay with them writing it on how to make a sandwich (which they probably did in third grade!!) or do you want a more complex requirement?
One of my pet peeves is not knowing how students will be assessed. I love rubrics for that reasons!
It just doesn’t seem fair for students not to know how they will be assessed. And the biggest complaint I hear (from adults!) is that grading writing is purely subjective. That students have to guess “what the teacher wants.”
Okay, we do not want that! (Right!?)
Rubrics help give writing teachers credibility! So include one with your project sheet.
A project sheet doesn’t have to be an iron-clad contract that restricts your students. Writing “This schedule is subject to change” or “If you have another idea of what you’d like to write about, please let me know” can go a long way in building goodwill with your students.
Rinse and repeat
Once you’ve created a project sheet, you’re on your way to building your own library of assignments. Use your first project sheet and rubric as a template for the next one…and so on! You’ll discover your own voice as you write them. Additionally, you’ll tailor your rubric to exactly the skills your students need to work on!
I have a free worksheet template and calendar you can use to start planning writing assignments. I’ve also included an example assignment sheet (complete with rubric) — you can grab those by clicking the link below:
Or you can you can find them in the resource library if you already have a password! Need a password? You can head over here to get one:
Click here to get access to the resource library!
Let me know how your planning goes!