Friday, April 17, 2015

Motivating the Reluctant Writer

Those groans you often hear when you present a new writing assignment can wear on your nerves and possibly stifle any enthusiasm you had in starting the writing lesson. So rather than start with 'how to motivate the reluctant writer', let's start with 'how to motivate the reluctant teacher'. I really believe that quality learning is reflected in the enthusiasm and passion of the teachers throughout a student's day. I know that if I have a lesson that I am proud of, or that is of interest to me, I tend to look forward to that more than those lessons that are 'HAVE-TOs'. I don't think I'm sharing anything profound here, just simply stating what we all know as writers and teachers. So with that, here are my ideas on how to create fun in your class so that you are no longer reluctant, but an active participant in your lessons. Remember, it is important to model writing (as with reading) so that students can see that you are practicing, too.

  • Starting from my first post of this blog, Start Write Here, can be a fun way to kick off a writing assignment. Sometimes, just spending 5 minutes free writing can get those juices flowing so the transition into the lesson is a little easier. 
  • Ideas or steps to take when starting a writing assignment:
    •  In groups, discuss what you already know about a topic, then share as a class (this should take no longer than 10 minutes.) Important! Remember, writers write about what they know. If you were given the topic 'nuclear fusion', how might you feel knowing that was the topic you had to write about? Remember to keep your students in mind.  Steven Zemelman and Harry Ross wrote a book called 13 Steps to Teacher Empowerment. In this book, they talk about actually shadowing a student (chapter 2) so that you can learn how their time in his/her classroom affects the choices and behaviors that s/he make. In my district, our contract states that we are allowed release time to visit other classes/programs. This may be something you choose to do to help you understand how students relate to the work they have to do in class, and the choices they make because of it. My point? Help writers write about what they know: this will happen through discussions in the class. They may not know about the topic prior to the teaching and in-class activities, but all things equal, they will be better prepared to write with continued support and group work.  
    • In individual groups, allow students to decide what part of the topic they are comfortable writing about. Maybe it might be steps in the scientific method. One student may have great ideas on creating a hypothesis, but struggles with how to set it up, while another student really loves the organization piece. Spend 15 minutes or so having each person writing about their piece on the topic.
    • Share the pieces as a group.
    • Share all groups to the entire class. (This most likely will be done on days 2-3 depending on the topic and the students' abilities.)
    • After each group has presented, return to the original groups and discuss all the pieces to refresh each student's memory.
    • Now each student will independently write using their own ideas as well as the others to complete a sloppy copy of their work.
    • On a completely different day, you might follow the editing plans mentioned in Becoming a Writer.
How will this improve your morale and theirs? Hopefully, you are all working toward a collaborative community in your classrooms which allows mistakes and celebrates successes. In a perfect world, this would be a flawless exercise in writing, but since we know that best laid plans are just that, we have to adapt to each day/each situation. By incorporating fun into your writing, AND by writing yourself, you are creating and writing, 'write' away! Have fun!

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