Could you have the next Rick Riordan in your class or possibly another Dr. Seuss? Is there a hidden talent in the class just waiting to be discovered or has writing taken a back seat to all other subject areas?
Why is it so hard to engage students in writing? We all have students who will write to fulfill an assignment and get the grade, but how do we ignite the love of writing? How do we recreate the excitement and joy of putting pen to paper to create a story or poem where the action and drama stem from personal imagination?
Writing in the classroom is valuable tool that provides benefits such as the following:
* Writing allows for handwriting practice, transition from print to cursive
* Strengthens fine motor skills especially for lower grades as they transition from the "big" pencil to the "skinny" pencil
* Develops critical thinking and organization of personal thought
* Provides a method of personal expression
* Improves communication skills
* Serves as a review of material recently taught/learned
* Encourages creativity and imagination
* Tool for practicing punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, and forms of writing
* Serves as an assessment tool for teacher
So how do we engage our students in the writing process and bring out those hidden writers?
One method to engage students is using student journals across the curriculum. Student journals are personalized notebook that is sure to start the creativity flowing and cure the writing blues.
To introduce journal writing, allow students to decorate the journal, personalizing with stickers, glitter, and pictures. Students are eager to participate in activities they have been allowed to create.
The Scientist's Journal
Transform an every day composition notebook into a scientific method journal where students can keep science notes, lab activities, reflective thoughts on special activities, and answer those challenging "what if" questions.
The journal can also serve as a data tracker for those experiments where you monitor progress over a period of time, such as watching a seed grow, or keeping track of meals/calories for a health lesson.
Learning about the world we live in comes to life in a journal where facts, pictures, maps, and adventures are kept. Turning the journal into personal passport is a fun way learn facts about locations around the globe. Students can add pictures, write diary entries of places to visit, and draw and label maps.
Current Events Journal
Posing the question, "What do you think about this?" on the cover, students can be given a current event for the week and write responses to the article. This is a great way for students to express opinion and learn how to back up the opinion with supportive facts from the article. How would they respond? What should be done? Concepts such as planning and organizing steps are taught and practiced in this journal.
Keeping a spelling journal or having students create a personal dictionary will help students learn new words and practice them daily. For younger students, you can have pages that reflect word families, blends, or rhyming words. Older students can be have pages with challenging words or words to know.
A math journal is great tool for defining math terms, listing steps to solving specific problems, writing out word problems and how to solve the problems (again organizing thoughts and listing steps is practiced). Illustrations and charts are added to help the problem solving process.
To write about a reading assignment, students have to pay more attention to it. They have to read more carefully. Before, during, and after reading a story or poem, this journal allows for reflection, definition of challenging words, character profiles, setting descriptions, plot time lines, and so much more.
Keeping a reading journal after every chapter recalling chapter events and relating the text to self or to another text helps those students who have difficulty with comprehension or writing the book report at the end of a reading.
Whether the topic is chosen by teacher or student, this journal allows for self expression, time to think about your thoughts and write them out in a clear organized manner, and encourages a creative flow that can help students use their imaginations, explore possibilities, problem solve, and storytelling. This creative writing, allows students to explore vocabulary and writing styles they wouldn't normally use in other graded assignments.
There are so many uses for journals in the classroom and not all of them should be assessed for correct punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. Some may be assessed for understanding of the topic and creativity. The idea is to get students to write and enjoy the process. As they practice writing on a daily basis, the tools needed to become a successful writer will continue to develop. As they develop, students will become more confident in their writing and you may find they are writing a great deal more. You may just notice a few great writers in the midst!
Myree Conway is an educator and writer for TeachHUB.com.
Established by teachers, for teachers, TeachHUB.com offers educators recommended classroom tools, professional development, daily lesson plans, and education news. The website is dedicated to improving the quality of education and invests in the opinions of teachers when providing resources and support for both inside and outside the classroom.