Student writing engagement is a common challenge in ELA classrooms everywhere. This is not only a skill that students will need as they go forward in their educational and real-world careers, but it is also a difficult skill for many of them to master.
The more difficult students find this task, the more likely they are to be unengaged with it. By utilizing methods of instruction that encourage engagement, you exponentially increase the likelihood that students will learn to write well.
Let’s talk about some different strategies to increase student writing engagement.
Strategy One: Choice
My number one suggestion for improving student writing engagement is to give students choices. By providing multiple acceptable paths for students to work on, you allow students to be connected to their work in a way that they can’t be if you completely direct their efforts.
Choice might mean that students are allowed to pick the topic for their research paper or choose from a series of essay prompts at the end of a novel. It might also mean that students are asked to design their own timeline or structure for a writing project – due dates, how long individual elements should be, whether or not they share their work with other students, etc.
Whichever way you do it, incorporating student input gives students a significant sense of ownership of not only their immediate work but their educational path as well.
Strategy Two: Fun
Make what you do fun. Writing instruction can easily get very dull, so think about ways that you can incorporate fun into your instruction. For instance, research writing skills can be taught in short chunks, just as well as with a massive paper, and can be a great way to increase student writing engagement.
Using high-interest non-fiction articles can have students practice reading and using what they have read in their writing. My Article of the Week full-year bundle is a good place to start with 43 high-interest non-fiction and informative texts, as well as 3 post-reading activities for each article. Find this resource on Shopify CAD and Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
Fun can also mean giving funny prompts or entertaining topics to write about. Try my Pet Memes Narrative Writing Assignment for one that makes students laugh and gets them to practice narrative writing at the same time.
By looking for ways to incorporate fun into your writing activities and assignments, you will increase student writing engagement.
Strategy Three: Format Variety
It can be easy to get stuck in a rut – focusing on and stressing one type of writing to the partial or full exclusion of others. Remember that while there are differences between types of writing, there are some skills that are universal to all types of writing.
A well-crafted sentence, clear and concise structure, redrafting, and editing skills are all things that are important no matter what type of writing you are teaching.
While research writing might be the culmination of your writing curriculum for the year, don’t hesitate to incorporate other types of writing as well.
A great place to start when looking to incorporate variety could be any of the following lessons:
- Creative Writing Prompts and Activities
- Rant Writing Unit
- Article of the Week Differentiated Lessons
Strategy Four: Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New
Whether you have been at this teaching thing for years or are a relatively new teacher, finding new ways to teach things can add energy and engagement to your classroom. What works one year or in one class is not guaranteed to work the next year or with a different group of kids.
Incorporating new forms of technology (such as embracing cell phones instead of fighting them or recognizing podcasts as a valid form of literature) might work well for you. It might even be something as simple as choosing a new novel for your novel study.
Professional development sessions (both live and virtual ones) are great resources for new ideas and encouragement. My blog post, “The Importance of Professional Development for Teachers,” outlines the many ways it is beneficial to improve our professional lives and provides various opportunities for professional development for teachers.
Another blog post, “Online Teacher Professional Development,” takes a more in-depth look at why professional development is so important.
And if you’re a busy teacher (aren’t we all?), my blog post, “Teacher Professional Development Podcasts,” outlines the reasons why listening to podcasts can be a great way to get in your professional development without sacrificing your time.
Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get caught doing the same thing for 10 years. As you develop, prepare, and revamp your writing curriculum, keep these four strategies in mind. They will help you improve student writing engagement and student success.