In many classrooms, writing curriculum looks the same across grade levels. Teachers teach formula writing quite often. You provide graphic organizers and tell them to connect their ideas to the text, their life, or the world. We ask them to write about their favorite vacation, their hero, or what they did over the weekend. And every now and then you come across a student who is able to paint a picture with words. You can’t wait to see what he will write next, but you know he or she can do even more. You wonder why this student continues to produce good writing when you know they are capable of producing excellent writing. Maybe the problem isn't the student, but the audience. If the only person who reads their stuff is their teacher why bother? You read the final copy after some conferencing and editing, pass judgement with a score, and that is the end of that piece. This is writing happening in isolation without their ideas getting beyond the four walls of your classroom. In a connected world kids need to write for a greater purpose, passion and audience. Here are three ways to motivate your students to produce better writing.
Project Based Learning
Tapping into project based learning can provide some of the best writing you've seen so far. Project based learning establishes an end goal that taps into a student’s passion on an idea and provides the perfect opportunity for persuasive and narrative writing pieces. One of the key ideas in project based learning is being connected to the world and community. Read more about it here.
Are You a Writer?
Math teachers solve problems every day on their boards in order to guide students along and teach concepts. Teachers read aloud to model good intonation and storytelling. Science teachers demonstrate experiment before kids dig in. Why then are you not writing your own stories in front of your students? Teachers sometimes clam up at the thought of writing about a topic. However, it's crucial that you show your own passion for writing. One of the best places to do that is having your own blog. I challenge you to begin your own blog as well as writing in a journal in front of your students.
With blogging kids have a global audience especially if the teacher is a connected educator on Twitter, Facebook, or Google plus. All of a sudden, a good writer will begin to feel passionate about their writing, knowing that it has to be worthy of the web for publishing. I am actually writing this post at 4:00 am because I can't sleep thinking about it. It is nagging at me in a way that I had to pick up my iPad and get my ideas down. That is how authentic writing happens- when you feel passionate about a topic and it wakes you up in the middle of the night clawing at you until you give in.
The formula writing that is commonplace in classrooms will help them pass AP exams and that is about it. Don't misunderstand me. There are techniques that can help students write better stories. The use of alliteration can enhance language, using metaphors is another powerful tool. Giving three examples to support an idea can be effective or inserting a powerful quote can help drive a message home. However, none of these tools are any good if the writer isn't invested in the published destination.
Our kids are reading blogs, watching YouTube videos and reading twitter feeds. They are natural consumers. What if we leveraged their writing to make them creators and contributors?
Real writing comes from passion and drive and knowing that a lot of people are going to read your writing. As I construct this piece I am thinking of all the people that I will tweet this post to, email the link to, or use at a conference. I only hope that you as a classroom teacher understand my message here. Use formula writing if you must, but also provide the opportunity for free writing on topics of interest to students, especially those who understand the power of language. Open up the world of blogging with a platform like kidblog.org. Then take it one step further and get yourself on Twitter so that you can mediate an even larger audience for students. Check out http://comments4kids.blogspot.com for some inspiring classroom blogs by students. You are wonderful and brilliant, but you alone are not enough to motivate students to reach further. Open up the world to them with technology and watch the writing go from good to great!
Written By: Jenny Krzystowczyk