Teachers’ Lounge: Five Ways to Get Kids Excited About Writing

Help!Okay, I’ll admit it–I, myself, professional writer, etc. am not always excited about writing.  I do it because it helps pay the bills and because I’m good at it, and . . . it nags me.  Even when I was in junior high, I couldn’t be sure of my thoughts about thoughtful subjects until I tried to express them in writing.  A little later in life, when I started noticing the days fly by like those calendar pages in old movies, I wanted to pin them down, and naturally reached for a pencil.  I write because–

Oh, wait!  This post is about how to get kids excited, not why.  That’s why you’re here; and your time is limited.  So

1. Make it about them.  I don’t mean this in the you’re-so-special sense, but in the write-what-you-know sense.  An educated person should know how to throw words together in a logical manner to make sense on any subject, but 10-year-olds are only on the way to being educated.  Start where they are: where they go, what they see, what they do.  Maybe even what they feel, though in my opinion the younger they are the less they need to be rummaging around in their feelings.

2. Use what’s near at hand.  For example, ask the students to make a list of eight items in their room they would sell in a garage sale.  Then ask them to select 4-5 of those items and write a couple of sentences describing a particular memory associated with each one.  For younger kids you can stop here, but if you’re feeling ambitious, ask them to write an outline for a short story (2-3 characters and a simple plot) incorporating at least three of those memories.  Are we excited yet?  Write the story!

3. Use what they’re interested in and what they’re good at.  Ask for directions in how to practice for a ballet recital, or how to get to Level 2 in whatever game is hot right now.  (Hint: find out what games are hot right now before you make this assignment.)  Discover what  their favorite movie is and ask for a description of one scene.  Only . . . write the scene as if you were in it, and describe it from a chosen character’s point of view.  The result may be sloppy and barely coherent but it will have more of the actual kid in it than any short story they were supposed to make up from a prompt.  That way, they just may care a little more about revision.

4. Surprise them.  Lots of ways to do this.  Here’s one: if you’re in a classroom, ask the students to write a paragraph describing how they eat ice cream.  Then hand out ice cream (if you still do this in a classroom) and, after it’s eaten, ask them to revise their paragraphs, adding more descriptive turns.  Or ask them to describe themselves playing a popular game, then go outside and play the game.  If you’re a homeschooler, plan a surprise visit to a favorite spot, like the zoo, and ask for descriptions before and revisions after.

5. Let them be.  Because not all kids will get excited about writing.  Ever.  If they can muster up interest in an assignment every now and then, and learn to write complete sentences and coherent paragraphs while they’re doing it, you’ve accomplished a lot.



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One Response to “Teachers’ Lounge: Five Ways to Get Kids Excited About Writing”

  1. Megan Saben Says:

    I think I’ll try number four. Maybe I’ll let the kids try it too. 🙂

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