Teaching writing in the middle school classroom can be really tricky. There are always some students who love writing, but I have always found that most of my students groan when I ask them to pull out their writing. Then you have those students who just sit there and stare at their pages class after class no matter how many times you encourage them. I am often shocked at the lack of effort my middles come to me with in writing. It can be discouraging, but writing is an essential part of our students’ education. It’s important that they learn not only to write, but to write well. I’m sharing some of my top tips that I have found work well in my writing classes.
Tips for Writing
Break Down the Writing Structure Paragraph by Paragraph
This is perhaps the simplest and yet one of the most effective tips I have to share. Our students often feel overwhelmed at writing an entire paper. Even for myself, breaking down a paper makes it feel much more manageable. It’s essential to teach and dissect the paper in simple ways that our middles can understand. This breakdown works with any type of writing and is the first step in teaching writing in my classroom.
Focus on One Writing Skill at a Time
Writing has so many components to it, which again can be really overwhelming to our students. Students need to not only remember the format of the writing structure you are teaching, but also proper capitalization, focus on verb tense, remember how to embed quotes, keep the writing in the same point-of-view, and the list goes on. This is a lot to remember for any person let alone a middle schooler. We need to focus on one skill and allow students to master it or feel confident with it, before moving on to the next skill. This will confuse students less and help them to feel more successful in their writing. Throughout the year, you will have to do this less and less as students begin to master the different skills. You can then simply review the skills as necessary.
Provide Real Life Examples of the Writing Skill You are Teaching
By giving our middles real life examples, we allow our students to see this type of writing used in everyday life. This gives them purpose in their writing. I know a complaint I often hear in my classroom is “I’ll never use this!” When you choose to show real life examples, it helps students to see that there are times when they really will use this type of writing. This also helps to make the lessons more meaningful to them which in turn will help them remember the lessons longer. Finding these real life examples can sometimes take some time at first. You want to make sure you find valuable examples that are appropriate for your students and relevant. The good news is, once you find some great examples, you can use them year after year and update as needed!
Provide Students with Ample Examples, Practice Time, and a Whole Lot of Feedback
Perhaps one of the most important thing we can do as writing teachers is provide feedback. This can feel overwhelming for us because it takes time to meet with each student and read through their work. I have found that my middles make the most progress when I meet with them during their writing time. This allows me to see where they are in their writing and help them with trouble spots. It’s also vital to provide really descriptive feedback that students can actually use in their writing. You don’t want to be too vague in your feedback or students won’t know how to apply it and improve their writing.
Another great way for students to get feedback in their writing is through peer conferencing. This is a powerful tool in your belt, because it allows students to not only get feedback but learn how to give feedback as well. Make sure that before you have students peer conference that you teach them how to peer conference well. Teach them what to look for and how to communicate constructive feedback in easy ways to implement. It can be really helpful to have students practice this skill while you go around and correct and give suggestions the first few times as they learn.
Celebrate Student’s Writing
Celebrating writing is one of the most fun parts of writing! Unfortunately, it is often the most forgotten as well. The purpose of writing is for others to read or hear what you have to say. When we fail to implement that in our classrooms, students miss out on the joy of writing. There are lots of great ways to celebrate writing in the classroom. You can have students partner up or share in groups in your class. This is often less intimidating than sharing one person at a time in front of the entire class.
Students love to share their writing with other students. Take time to schedule a time to meet with a younger class, or even another class in your grade. Display their writing inside or outside of your classroom. Invite parents to read their child’s work and share their own feedback. In my time teaching writing, I have always found that celebrating the good in their writing can make all the difference in how students feel about their writing and writing in general. It is always worth the extra time to celebrate our middle’s writing.
There are so many great ways to teach writing, but I have found that these simple tips are some of the most effective in my classroom. Writing can be difficult to teach and for students to do, but it is always worth the extra effort. And with your enthusiasm for writing, you will help students to feel more successful! This in turn can lead to a love of writing and less grumbling each time you tell your students it’s time to write. So go ahead, write away!