How to Motivate Students to WritePosted In Writing | Posted By Kristy Robins
Teaching writing can be tricky, especially with reluctant or struggling writers. Some students resist writing with every fiber of their being. Unfortunately, sometimes a well-intentioned homeschool teacher’s attempts to help can backfire, making some students feel demotivated and defeated. How can homeschool teachers offer hope and inspiration to their students and avoid sending the message that they are “bad” at writing?
Why is Writing so Difficult for Some Students?
To start, the teacher should try to see the task of writing from an inexperienced writer’s perspective. When it comes to writing, there are so many moving parts. Most homeschool teachers cannot even remember a time when they couldn’t read and write fluently. It’s easy to forget that young students are still developing the skills experienced writers take for granted. For some students, especially early elementary-aged students, writing can seem like a daunting task.
At this age, students are still cultivating the fine motor skills that allow them to grip a pencil with ease. While experienced writers automatically know to start a sentence with a capital letter and end it with a punctuation mark, young students may need reminders. To them, this process may feel more like translating from a first language to a second language. They have to come up with what to write. Then they have to remember or figure out how to spell each word and how to make all the letters. But they can’t forget about the mechanics of a grammatically correct sentence. When it comes to writing paragraphs and multi-paragraph essays, there are even more rules and guidelines to remember. It’s no wonder that students, especially struggling writers, often feel overwhelmed! Luckily, there are many ways that you can help them let go of the stress and get in touch with their creativity.
What Are Some Ways to Motivate Students to Write?
Offer Effective and Engaging Writing Prompts
Students have an easier time writing when they are inspired by quality writing prompts. Choose writing prompts that provide clear expectations and guidance and also allow some student choice. That way students will feel confident that they know what is expected and excited to write about something meaningful to them.
Model the Writing Process
Teachers often tell students “show, don’t tell” when it comes to writing. The same advice applies to teaching composition. Teachers should model each step of the writing process and then have their students immediately apply the step to their own writing project. Think aloud as you model to show students how to work through each step. That way students know exactly what to do when it’s their turn to write.
Break the Writing into Bite-sized Chunks
For best results, have the students work on one piece of the writing at a time over several days.
- Introduce one or two writing concepts or skills at a time so that students can better retain the information.
- Allow students to dedicate plenty of time to the prewriting phase so that they will feel prepared to move on to drafting.
- Let them work at a comfortable pace while drafting and allow them to take breaks when you see them getting frustrated or fatigued.
- Once they have completed their first draft, let it sit overnight before asking them to work on revisions.
Breaking up the work into small do-able steps helps students make incremental progress without overworking or overwhelming them. In turn, the students will feel more motivated to write.
Provide Mentor Texts for Inspiration
When they get stuck, one of the best ways to motivate students to write is to have them read quality mentor texts, readings that are similar to the kind of writing they are attempting. As they read, encourage them to notice and discuss the elements that make the writing successful. Then they will feel motivated to try some of those techniques in their own writing.
Use Graphic Organizers
Find or create graphic organizers, especially during the prewriting phase, to help your students stay focused. For some reason, filling in boxes is less intimidating than trying to fill a blank page. Using graphic organizers helps students to work more independently because they provide a roadmap of what to include. Graphic organizers work well for most students, but they are one of the most vital writing strategies for students who have learning challenges or who tend to struggle with writing. With a graphic organizer, students can focus on one thing at a time and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Respect the Students’ Autonomy
Students work harder and get more fulfillment from their work when they feel that they are in charge of their own learning. Sometimes the best course of action is to withhold writing advice and constructive criticism, even when it seems counterintuitive. Writing is an especially personal process. Allow students to make their own writing decisions even when those decisions seem like mistakes. Just like in life, students learn best by correcting their own mistakes. With effective teacher modeling of the writing process, most students will be able to identify and correct any major issues on their own.
Encourage Students to Self-Assess
As students approach the revising and editing phase, give them the opportunity to evaluate their own work using the checklist or rubric you will use to assess their final draft. Ask them to read their own work with their “teacher hat” on so that they can ensure the required elements are present and try to identify errors to correct. Answer all their questions, as honestly and accurately as possible, whether they’re about content, format, or mechanics. Giving struggling writers an opportunity to fix their own mistakes and make their own improvements to their work will build their confidence and sense of independence.
Allow Students to Rewrite Assignments When Appropriate
When the final draft doesn’t meet the mark and the students wish to improve it further, by all means let them do it! Even professional writers get a do-over if their work doesn’t satisfy their editors. There is no harm in allowing students to re-write an assignment in order to improve it. In fact, it’s a cause for celebration and a sign that they’re invested in the work. Additionally, it reinforces the writing process and allows students to do as many revisions as they need to reach success. When teachers allow students to revise again, the rubric or checklist becomes a teaching tool rather than a “gotcha.” In turn, the students begin to see the writing process as constructive instead of punitive.
Find Authentic Ways to Publish Student Writing
One of the most effective ways to motivate students to write is by providing an opportunity to share their work with a real audience. When they know their work will be read by someone who isn’t their teacher, students feel a deeper sense of purpose for their writing. Provide opportunities for your students to:
- write letters to friends, family, or government leaders.
- host a writer’s cafe (in real life or virtually) in which students can read their work to one another.
- participate in a writing contest.
- create and regularly contribute to a newsletter or literary magazine within your homeschool co-op.
- write a blog or social media post (with careful supervision and attention to safety, of course).
- write letters to the editor of a newspaper to share concerns or simply to thank someone in the community.
- interview family members and create a book of family memories.
Be Sure the Writing Task is Appropriate for the Student’s Writing Level
When planning a writing project, the teacher should take the students’ writing level into account. If the writing task is too simplistic, students may lose interest or feel insulted. If it’s too difficult, students may become frustrated and give up.
If you’re looking for a complete homeschool writing curriculum, consider Essentials in Writing. Offering complete writing courses for grade levels 1-12, EIW will keep your students motivated and take the burden off the homeschool parent. EIW has it all: engaging writing prompts, short-but-sweet video lessons that model the writing process step-by-step, graphic organizers, rubrics and checklists, and more. Check out the EIW Level Wizard today to find the perfect level for your homeschool student.