5 ways to make writing less intimidating for your students
Do your students absolutely freak out when it comes time to write?
I know firsthand how intimidating writing can be. Despite how much I love writing now, I really hated it as a kid. I remember in 4th grade I had to write a Maryland State Notebook which consisted of at least 20 paragraph essays – or, as I thought of them, 20 torture sessions. My poor mom – apparently it was a rough few weeks.
Then I grew up and became a teacher, and I saw the same fear in my students’ eyes. What? Write something? The world is ending!!!!!!
I now know how awesome writing can be, especially when you get good at it. And I really want my students to lose the fear of writing so they can start honing their skills and actually get to the point of enjoying writing.
So here’s some ideas I’ve found that help make writing easier – and less intimidating.
How to Make Writing Less Intimidating
- Assign lots of (ungraded) writing. In order for your students to get over their fear of writing, they need to write a lot – and a good portion of that needs to be ungraded writing for two reasons. 1) Your students need much more practice than you have time to grade. 2) When they know it’s not being graded, they can (hopefully) not stress as much about mechanics and just get used to writing down their thoughts.
- Consistently make your students just write for 2-5 minutes. One specific way to help your students practice writing is to give them a prompt and tell them they have to write about it for, say, 5 minutes. The trick is they’re not allowed to finish early; they have to keep writing until you call time. Even if they don’t know what to say they have to write the words, “I don’t know what to say now.” Once they get used to taking whatever thought is in their head and writing it down on paper, they won’t be as intimidating when it comes time to write a rough draft for a formal paper.
- Incorporate writing in other subjects. When you incorporate writing into other subjects besides English/language arts, you not only help students improve their writing skills, but you also develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter. And, once again, help students get used to (and less afraid of) writing. Check out my post, “5 Easy Ways to Incorporate Writing in Your Classroom” for specific ideas.
- Teach & model brainstorming. When it comes time to write a larger paper, picking a topic is the first hurdle your students must overcome. Help them get past this challenge by teaching and modeling ways to brainstorm ideas. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can simply model how to jot down as many ideas how you can in two minutes or how to create a simple mind map.
- Give students checklists for the rewriting and editing stages. Checklists are an amazing way to help your students understand the writing process. When I was in school I didn’t understand the point of having multiple drafts – and your students won’t either unless you help them understand exactly what they’re supposed to do in the rewriting and editing stages. So when it comes time to rewrite their paper, give them a checklist of things they should look for and correct. Require them to check each item off the list as they make the improvements. Your students will love it because they’ll know exactly what you expect of them.
- Bonus Tip: Make grading easy. Finally, make sure YOU’RE not intimidated by grading the writing. I wrote a whole post about this, so I won’t take the space here to repeat it. Check out the post: “A Simple Way to Grade Writing Quickly.”
I recently took these ideas and put together writing units for those of you who teach 5th – 8th grade ELA (or maybe even 9th or 10th, depending on your students’ level). These units include everything you need to teach these skills, including teachers’ notes, student handouts that walk them through the writing process (complete with checklists), and a super-simple grading sheet that will make grading a breeze.
Best of all, you can get the Compare/Contrast unit absolutely free! (This is a total steal. It’s a full, complete unit that I’m giving away for free because I think you’ll love it & will want to get the whole bundle!)
Photo by MyTudut