How to Motivate Students to Write!
By LeAnn Nickelsen, M.Ed.
- Start the writing process with them! Do the following to help their brains get started: list, chart, web, cluster raw ideas; draw or sketch ideas, brainstorm in small groups; free-write; read and research the topic; research student questions.
- Make sure there is a purpose for the writing that is very interesting to the students. Writing how-to essays has been a wonderful way to get students involved – especially if they get to choose their topic and audience! How-To writings also appeal to most students since it is applicable in the world. Writing with a purpose is the primary motivator in producing quality work. (Some purposes: to complete a job application, to get a driver’s license, to organize thoughts, to explain how to do something, to stay in touch, to explain an opinion, etc.)
- Student writing should have an authentic audience beyond the teacher! Give them opportunities to share their writing with younger or older students, grandparents, parents, friends, neighbors, people with different occupations, government officials convincing them of a passion, communities to help solve a problem, thank you notes for acts of kindness, pen pals, menu for math activity, comic strips, etc.
- Encourage students to write about their real daily-life experiences. Photos they take and post, Facebook comments, chats, blogs, etc.
- Let students choose MOST of their writing topics and writing formats (within your curriculum and some outside of curriculum if time). Let them write about what concerns them most.
- If the school recognizes the importance of writing, so will the students. Have cheers, chants, and bulletin boards displaying writing from students from all grade levels and all content areas.
- Give many opportunities to publish their writing. Have them select a piece to publish. Ideas: Parent Night (Young Writers Celebration), display at Barnes & Noble’s, Gallery Walk at school.
- Always celebrate writing – great way to motivate. Examples: Author’s Chair, Amazing Writing in 5th Grade Bulletin Board, Parent Luncheon, share with the principal, share with another class, etc.
- Teachers must provide the Criteria for Success so students know exactly what you are wanting. They need feedback often from the teacher and other students. They need lots of modeling to feel they can write well.
- Share lots of examples of good writing and list the reason why they are excellent! Share examples of your own writing too – they love to get to know you better. Show them your rough drafts, revision marks, brainstorms, and final copy too!
- Ask the students lots of questions to help them with their ideas on paper. Many times students struggle to pull all the supporting details on paper, so gaps are often present. Rather than tell them what needs to change, ask them questions.
- Accept different forms of writing on the same topic. If the topic is the forest, accept reports, poems, creative writing stories, plays, or songs.
- Collect writing and place in a portfolio to show the importance of their rare collections. It shows the growth made as well which is very motivating!
- Before writing, show objects, images, pictures, and other items that help students see the details of what they will be writing about. Don’t forget to discuss it too!
- Create a class newspaper so that many students write for a purpose and get to choose their topic of interest.
- Make writing a habit – something that just happens each day in small ways and sometimes big ways. Practice journal writing and give students a choice of about 2 prompts. Show them your journal entry to get them started. Always find a way to give them feedback on this journal so they feel it is worth the time.
- Be creative with how students showcase their writing. Some ideas could be: pop-up book, soft cover book with construction paper or material scraps, mounted and framed, Googled Imaged, Poster-Size ad, etc.
- Draw first, then write. This works for many students – you just might need to give them a time limit on the drawing.