Writing practice is essential for anyone learning to use effective language skills. Getting started on a writing assignment can be difficult for any age when one is not comfortable with writing. The more opportunities a new writer has for practice, the better prepared he or she will be when the time comes to make the writing count. To get kids interested in writing, try several different techniques. Here are a few to use in your classroom.
Theme notebooks are a collection of writing samples based on one subject. A class set of notebooks is kept in the classroom so that each student will have one to use when it is time to write. Have you ever wondered about what topics your students are interested? Brainstorm a list of these topics with your students. Once you have enough, title each notebook with the name of each topic. That title is then the theme for which all writing will be focused. The possibilities are endless. The themes can be simple subjects like pets, skateboarding, or music. Others could be related to travel, nature, or even fashion. Deeper still are topics like racism in the community, current issues or study tips.
To use the notebooks in class, have each student select from the available themed notebooks. During the time given for writing, each child should focus on writing about their thoughts and feelings on the theme. The next time the theme notebook is used, you can give students the option of selecting a different theme notebook or the same that they had previously written in. As time goes by, you will want to give your students not only time to write in the theme notebook but also time to read what their peers have written. Reading others’ reflections on the theme often will inspire students to respond or comment directly to what their peers have added to the theme notebook.
The roulette wheel at the casino can be a thrill, but so can writing roulette in the classroom. Give your students a prompt to get started. You may try giving them a scenario or the first few words of a story. Let students write for five to seven minutes in response to the prompt. When the time is up, have students exchange their piece with another student. That student is to then pick up where the first writer left off. Increase the time students must write by three or four minutes so that they will have a chance to read the first writer’s text. When the second student has reached the time limit, have all the class exchange the papers again, making sure that the text is not given to the original writer. Repeat this process a few more times, always having students exchanging the papers with someone who has not had it before. Once you have had three writers or so add to each piece, return the papers to the original writer to see where the others have taken the idea. Your students will get a kick out of how their peers directed the writing!
Using the internet or cutouts from magazines, show students images that lack captions. These can be any kind of pictures from works of fine art to random snapshots. Give your students time to study all parts of the picture. Next, allow students to free write for ten to fifteen minutes about the image. They can make up a story based on that image. Their story can be about what they see or what they imagine happened in the time leading up to when the image was captured. Follow this up by having volunteers read their work to the class or have students share their work with a seatmate.
Playing with Point-of-View
If your class has been reading a novel or story together, discuss the point-of-view from which it is being told. Be sure to ask students how the point-of-view can limit or enrich a story. Then ask them how that story may change if it were being told from another point-of-view. Next, have students experiment with a new point-of-view. The students may choose a character to be the narrator or an omniscient narrator so long as it is a different narrator than used in the original. Some creative types may even want to try retelling the story from the point-of-view of an inanimate object that is part of the setting.
New writers need lots of practice. Be sure to allow your students the freedom to choose some of their writing assignments, even if that means giving them a choice between a few prompts instead of coming up with one entirely on their own. Supplying students with a vast array of writing implements can help too. You may try inspiring creativity with scented pens or pencils with fuzzy toppers. At times, you may want to have students incorporate their weekly vocabulary words into their writing assignments. This will help them to not only know what their new words mean but to also practice using the word correctly in a sentence. Also, use the writing samples for editing practice. Students can work together to check spelling, punctuation, and grammar in their peers’ work. Frequent writing practice is what students need to help them with one of the most important skills they will need throughout life.