Increase Student Engagement in Writing
January 26, 2022
As a blogger, it’s safe to say that I enjoy writing. I’ve enjoyed it ever since I was a young student scratching down stray ideas in the margins of my notebook. However, not all my classmates were as passionate about writing as I was. While my pencil would fly across the page, a number of my peers struggled to navigate grammar, vocabulary, and story structure. Luckily for us, our teacher, Mrs. Murphy, knew how to make writing fun, engaging, and instructive for the whole class.
Mrs. Murphy developed activities that encouraged us to think critically about what we put to paper. In the process, we discovered new vocabulary words and learned how to build stronger sentences. I recently found myself revisiting these old strategies after watching a webinar on critical thinking in ELA and social studies. Writing will always be an important skill for our students to master because it directly affects how they communicate with the rest of the world. It’s important that we make their practice as creative and engaging as possible.
Pen to Paper
Right now, there are probably students in your classroom who are struggling with their writing. Maybe they need assistance with vocabulary and grammar. Maybe they just don’t have that much enthusiasm for the subject. Whatever the trouble may be, here are a few fun strategies that can help your classroom engage with their writing practice:
- Free Writing: Free writing is the simplest strategy to employ when fostering student writing ability. For many classrooms, free writing functions the same as unstructured play. It gives students a chance to mess about, experiment, and turn their thoughts toward what they’re passionate about. In the process, students naturally develop their skills in ELA. Sometimes the best way to learn something is to simply do it.
- Language Charades: One particularly fun activity is to break students into teams and give them a vocabulary word that they must share with the rest of the class. The twist? They must share the definition using a charade. For example, I once saw a group of students share the word “effervescent” by pretending to be hyperactive pheasants. It was goofy, but students remembered the definition, and were able to use it successfully in future writing.
- Tandem Stories: Another fun activity is to have students pair up and write tandem stories. Both partners begin by writing separate stories for 10 minutes. Once that time is up, they swap papers and must continue writing their partner’s story. This exercise usually leads to a lot of hysterical outcomes, but it’s also a great way to foster student creativity, practice sentence structure, and build collaboration!
- Reflection Journals: I’ve written before about how useful reflection journals can be. They allow students to record questions about the day’s lesson and are a good resource for building social-emotional learning. It turns out they are also great practice for ELA. By incorporating reflection journals into daily lessons, you not only provide students with a way to revisit what they’ve learned, but an opportunity to practice their writing.
Beyond the Words
I was fortunate to have a teacher who helped foster my knowledge and abilities in writing. With a little help from these strategies, even students who struggle with ELA can find themselves engaged, learning, and enjoying their work. So, sharpen those pencils and break out the spiraled notebooks. Writing is the doorway to infinite educational opportunities. Once students have a grasp of the fundamentals, there’s no limit to what they can discover!
*Image by David Schwarzenberg via Wikimedia commons.