Teaching writing is hard. It's hard because the English language has more exceptions than it does rules, and that's difficult for a 3rd grader to grasp. It's hard because there are those other "more important, tested" subject areas that are highly emphasized and have unlimited resources to support them. It's hard because amid the current climate of covid-19 uncertainty, consistency rarely exists.
But writing is a fundamental skill that we all must continue to learn and improve. One of the best things about teaching writing is that you can do it in any subject area, including math, and even the simplest of summaries can help students hone writing skills while also demonstrating their mastery of a concept. When done well, writing can also give students a safe space to express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Even if you don't have much time to devote to writing instruction, you can still make it meaningful if you include these six essential elements:
- Allow students to find their own voice and passion - When students discover these things through exploration and practice, writing becomes more enjoyable. They want to do more of it and improve their skills.
- Have the freedom to make mistakes and grow - Mistakes are how we learn to do better. When students are not afraid of imperfection, it gives them confidence to keep writing and growing.
- Encourage student creativity - The 5-paragraph essay has been drilled into students since they began writing. While sometimes it's necessary, it stifles creativity. Give them time and space to think, and write, outside the box.
- Use different types of writing - Show examples of all kinds of writing from different authors with different purposes. There's something for everyone, from poetry to prose.
- Meet students where they are: scaffold, challenge, support - Know what your students need and adjust your expectations accordingly and individually. Some students may thrive with high expectations while others will be discouraged and not try their hardest.
- Give valuable feedback with a quick turnaround - A short feedback loop is necessary to keep students on track without losing momentum.
To make writing instruction more meaningful and effective, try some of these ideas to get started:
- Find out what topics students are interested in. Use discussions, interest surveys, journal entries, etc.
- Give students space and time to explore and develop their ideas. Let them choose a topic, prompt, or journal entry to elaborate on.
- Carve out time for writing every day, even if it's only 15-20 minutes.
- Demonstrate different types of writing. Allow students to try them all.
- Don't grade every assignment with the Red Pen of Death; assess for specific skills or characteristics.
- Give prompt feedback and allow for multiple revisions.
This level of instruction dedicated to writing can be time-consuming and overwhelming for teachers, especially the feedback part. That's where MI Write comes in. MI Write provides unlimited practice with immediate and personalized feedback on each draft, which frees you up to respond to higher-level skills and the specific elements students are practicing.
MI Write promotes evidence-based writing instruction, and features strategies for planning, writing, and revising; goal-setting for students; and peer collaboration. Learn more about customizable prompts, multiple graphic organizers, and immediate automated feedback, and let us know how we can help you!