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Writing is both an academic skill and a tool for creativity in almost any classroom. Children are taught to spell and write coherently as much as they are taught to think outside the box and entertain their most fanciful ideas. When these ideas are fashioned into stories through writing, children are able to make meaning of the world around them in a clever and often humorous way.
Not all students enjoy writing. Some would much rather build with Legos, play dress-up or draw pictures on paper. However, no matter what students are doing in the classroom, there’s one thing that’s always taking place… Storytelling. They are telling stories in the imaginary worlds they create in the classroom. Telling stories are what young children are good at, and it’s a teacher’s job to make sure they are given the chance to express themselves as a way to build self-esteem and confidence. One such way is through writing.
Now what happens when your kids run short of ideas, and no words come out? What about the kids who are too excited by other things to sit still and put pen to paper? What if they are, plain and simple, bored by writing?
Here are 5 tried-and-tested tips to keep young students engaged in their writing...
Tip #1: Get them talking, get them writing
Sometimes the problem isn’t with a student’s willingness to write. It could be that they just don’t know what to write about. It’s possible that they can’t relate to the topic, or the topic isn’t interesting enough. Keep them engaged by asking them questions about what they like or enjoy doing. Involve them when planning or choosing topics. Some kids take much longer to warm-up but even the shyest student will have something to say. Once you get them talking, eventually you can get them writing about what they’re talking about. Be patient. Keep probing until the words come out!
Tip #2: Set up the environment to encourage writing
Create an environment that encourages young students to participate in writing. Set up word walls related to your topic and provide word mats to support students who are still learning or struggling to write. Display pictures with labels next to them to help younger students make connections between words and the things they represent. These learning aids make writing more accessible as it helps students feel less worried about their limitations in writing and instead focus on the writing itself.
Tip #3: Give them choices to express creativity
Make a variety of writing materials available for them to use such as pens, pencils, markers, crayons, magnetic writing boards and other tools which can be adapted to student needs and interests. Welcome the use of technology for students who may otherwise write more when typing on a keyboard or on story writing apps like PopSmartWrite. Young students who are given more freedom, choice and creativity in the writing process are more likely to stay motivated throughout the task.
Tip #4: Use writing prompts to stimulate imagination
Writing prompts can take many forms. Use fun and imaginative topics and story starters to inspire young students to craft their own whimsical stories and adventures. Have students take photos of what piques their interest and invite them to write stories about it. Book quotes can be used as prompts for reflective writing among older children, while poetry books the likes of Dr. Seuss can urge young students to come up with their own inventive rhymes. Anything can be a prompt so long as it draws out words and ideas from your students!
Tip #5: Give them an audience to recognize their work
Young students feel more assured of their writing when someone is there to read or listen to their work. Invite students to share their writing in front of the class or their family. Generate curiosity by asking questions and encouraging the audience to do the same. By expressing genuine interest in their work, students are affirmed of the value of their thoughts and ideas. Recognition is a powerful tool in boosting a students’ sense of self. Once they experience the intrinsic rewards of writing, they will turn to the experience more often.
To sum it all up, make writing fun, student-centered and provide support where needed. Maximize the use of learning aids in the environment so that any obstacles to writing are removed, and students can fully engage in the writing process without feeling afraid of making mistakes or not having the writing skills needed to succeed. Make room for free choice, and allow them to write about things that interest them the most. Give them opportunities to showcase their writing to an audience and recognize their strengths and individuality.