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Teaching Writing Skills
It’s almost impossible to make it in the modern world without sufficient writing skills. The need to be able to write is present from childhood throughout adulthood. On the technical side of things, there will always be paperwork to fill out, messages to send, and applications to complete. However, knowing how to write is also vital for personal growth, expression, and critical thinking.
If you’re a teacher, you’ve likely considered how to develop writing skills in students. At any grade level, teaching writing skills can be a difficult task. Younger students may have difficulty focusing or using fine motor skills to write legibly, and older students might lack interest or motivation to develop their skills further.
The role of teacher in developing writing skills is to show students why writing matters and how they can get better at it. Keep reading for an in-depth look at strategies to improve writing skills in the classroom.
Objectives of Teaching Writing Skills
What’s the end goal for developing writing skills, and what are the steps that help students learn new skills? Some objectives of teaching writing skills include giving students the skills they need to succeed in the real world and giving them a method of expressing their thoughts and feelings.
Writing is also a way for students of all ages to explore ideas and build connections between different areas of knowledge. While essays and book reports often make an appearance in the world of education, there are even more real-world applications that need to be considered.
For many students, the process of learning writing skills can be a lot more fun if the class has an interactive and relevant lesson design in teaching writing. For example, if you’re working with children that are around the ages of 9 to 12, here are some teaching writing activities you can give them in class:
- Start a journal. This is a terrific way for students to explore their opinions, knowledge, emotions, and world perspective.
- Plan an adventure while only using the future tense.
- Write a birthday letter to their best friend talking about their favorite things about them (using a lot of adjectives).
- Tell a story about something they did last ____(weekend, Halloween, summer) using the past tense.
- Fill in the blank activities. Provide a story that’s missing select keywords and phrases. Tell students to fill in the blanks independently and encourage them to use their imagination.
The point is to create fun activities that get students closer to the learning objectives while catching their interest and keeping them engaged. While the above ideas might be better suited to a younger age group, fun activities that get kids to think outside the box can be used for any grade level. Continue reading to get some tips on how to teach writing skills to students of all ages.
Teaching Writing Skills To Elementary Students
Writing is a journey, not a destination. People can learn and become better writers into adulthood and beyond, but they have to start somewhere. Teaching young children about writing can be difficult at the best of times. Perhaps you’ve even Googled “how to teach writing skills to kindergarteners” before with varied results. When teaching writing skills to elementary students (or even younger), it’s crucial to begin with the basics.
In addition to the more technical aspects of writing such as grammar, paragraph and sentence structure, parts of speech, etc., it’s essential to show children everything they can do with writing. Here are a few examples of lessons and activities you could implement to get young students interested in learning writing skills:
- Get students to write regularly by giving them easy and exciting tasks such as writing short stories or creating cards for friends and family.
- Go through the writing process together. For example, start with the brainstorming stage, then continue with the planning, writing, and editing stages as a group. This ensures that every student stays on track.
- Teach students different writing strategies that play to their strengths. For example, one student may excel at outlining and writing short fiction stories, and another might be partial to “free-flow writing” about their personal experiences in a journal.
There’s not one all-powerful writing skills list for elementary students一the most crucial thing at this age is that students understand the basics of grammar and sentence structure and planning, creating a draft, revising, and editing their work. Cultivating fun and excitement around the writing process is equally important at this stage.
Improve Writing Skills: Middle School
When it comes to middle school kids, the aims of writing skills are to express opinions and thoughts, record information (notes), discover connections, reflect on ideas, and solve problems. Suppose a middle school student is proficient at writing. In that case, they should be able to express a consistent point of view, maintain a singular “voice” throughout a piece of work, and integrate general information.
That being said, most children in middle school may still struggle with writing complete pieces. This could be due to difficulty transforming their thoughts into text. Along with this, many students may still find it challenging to write longer, more complex sentences and use more advanced grammar.
There are several strategies for developing writing skills in middle schoolers. One involves reducing the number of choices they have when sitting down to write (if they have plenty of ideas, good for them!). For some students, too much freedom can make them feel paralyzed with choice, and it can be difficult for them to start writing. One way of solving this is by giving them guided writing activities. This can apply to freewriting (journaling) as well as problem-solving/essay questions. Here are examples of both:
- Journaling prompt: Write about your favorite season of the year. Please share at least three reasons why it’s your favorite season, and then describe two activities that you usually do in this season.
- Essay question prompt (Social Studies-related): Who were the most influential figures in the Revolutionary War? Please give their names and then explain their roles and their important actions.
Another helpful strategy is to keep word requirements relatively low. Quality almost always trumps quantity. If you give your class assignments that say, “write X words” or “write X paragraphs,” you might be doing yourself a disservice. If kids aren’t able to meet the requirement, they might get frustrated and end up resenting the writing process because they feel like they can’t do it right. It can be helpful to make guidelines like “please be sure to answer each part of the question completely for full points. Sentences should be longer than X words,” instead of grading based on the piece's word count.
Some people have a more natural talent for writing than others, and that’s completely okay. The great thing about humans is we’re capable of learning and perfecting new skills with enough practice and effort. To improve writing skills, middle school students need to grow their confidence. As a teacher, you can boost students’ confidence by offering genuine compliments and constructive feedback.
How To Teach Writing Skills: High School
High school students are at a higher writing level and thus need different strategies in teaching writing skills. By the time students enter high school, they usually know the basics of writing quite well and have some experience organizing their thoughts and putting them on paper. At this age, students can benefit from developing better critical thinking skills, exercising their creativity, and improving their technical skills.
If you’re a high school teacher wondering how to teach writing skills, high school-level lessons and activities are the way to go. Here are three things you can do to improve the writing skills of your high school class:
- Encourage them to read: Reading is like the “Yin” to writing’s “Yang”. Reading helps students expand their vocabulary and learn first-hand about voice, structure, grammar, and the nuances of language.
- Improve their understanding of writing types/styles: Each writing style has a different purpose, and styles are often differentiated by the structure, tone, grammar, tense, and other features. Each writing style has its time and place, and students must know this as they begin applying for college, writing critical essays, and exploring their interest in creative writing.
- Teach about writing processes and strategies to beat writer’s block: If someone is not a natural writer, they will likely need to follow a structure or a “formula” to make organized and cohesive pieces of writing, at least for a little while. You can help your students by giving them templates and guides on how to write drafts of essays and short stories.
For the best possible learning outcomes of writing skills lessons, it can be helpful to aid each individual student in the areas they might need more assistance. Of course, at the high school level, some of the responsibility falls on the student to come and speak to the teacher if they have specific questions or concerns.
Strategies To Improve Writing Skills In College
This section could also be called “how to teach writing skills to adults,” as the strategies shared here can be helpful for anyone and everyone. By the time students reach college, they are likely somewhat experienced with writing well-structured and expressive texts with proper grammar and tone.
That being said, the transition from high school writing to the academic/collegiate level of writing required in higher education can be difficult for many. Outlined below are some strategies to improve writing skills in college and some ideas for writing projects for college students.
First things first一if you’re a professor trying to help students improve their writing skills, encourage them to focus on the details during the editing stage. After they’ve gotten all of their ideas on the page, they can come back after a short brain break to spice up their vocabulary, improve organization and sentence structure for clarity, and fix any grammatical errors. Reviewing work is an essential part of writing.
You may also want to encourage your students to start every essay or piece of complex writing with a well-developed outline. This helps with the organization of thoughts and ensures a consistent narrative throughout the paper.
The most significant advice teachers of all grade levels can give their students is to keep writing. Progress can’t be made without practice, and writing is a skill that can be learned, just like anything else.
Real Classroom Success
“I’ve used Six-Word Memoirs in my class for many years and the limitation of six words forces students to break big ideas down to smaller bites, think deeper about their stories, and unlock personal expression. In my classroom, I’ve seen kids work through writer's block; in just thirty minutes they feel like they have accomplished something.”
TERRY ASHKINOS, 7TH & 8TH GRADE TEAM LEAD
CHILDREN'S DAY SCHOOL
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
“The six-word approach was a way for my students to express themselves without writing a long narrative, one that may not speak to the reader as strongly as their Six-Word Memoir. Above all, they thought hard about their word choice, punctuation, and how they could illustrate the emotion/tone they wanted to express.”
Ginger Giessler, M.Ed & teacher
New Tech Academy
Fort Wayne, IN
"I’ve long been enamored with the Six-Word Memoir project. I’ve read all the books, written a pile of my own Six-Word Memoirs, and sometimes do my best reflecting in six-word increments. Six-Word Memoirs are a masterful way to tell a story and was the perfect way to have our students be part of an all-school writing project. As a staff, we believed a single writing project was a wonderful way to capture the voices, stories, and reflections of all our students. When we compiled all the student writing, we had 700 student stories told — in just 4,200 words — and every child could quickly and easily read the stories of their friends and peers. I'm not sure how we could have accomplished such an admirable feat without the gift of Six-Word Memoirs."
AUTHOR OF "YOU'RE THE PRINCIPAL! NOW WHAT?"
Deputy Superintendent, Dublin City Schools
“The day I used Six-Word Memoirs was the day my students came alive. Finally, being free to not only write long narratives helped them to discover the essence of themselves and the heart of their writing.”
CANDRA McKenzie, HallPassBreak PODCAST Host & HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER
NEW YORK CITY, NY
“Six-Word Memoirs bring out the best in my students. They are able to showcase their creativity and personal experience in a humorous, fun-loving way, but may also choose to display deeper, more complex emotions if they so choose.”
Sarah Nguyen, 6th grade English teacher
High Point Academy
“We often think of creativity as being open, free of rules with room to explore. But one thing that struck me when writing Six-Word Memoirs is that having strict parameters can sometimes lead to even more creative thinking!”
Paul Ackers, English teacher
Year 3 Brookes Moscow International School
“Six-Word Memoirs is the perfect site to be ‘published’ while being creative.”
Hannia Dergongan Marohombsar, Year 8 and Year 10 First Language English teacher
National High Jakarta School of Piaget Academy
"The Six-Word Memoir is the perfect instrument for students to exercise their self-awareness in meaningful ways. Having this type of personal success on the first assignment of the school year sets the tone of the year on a positive and productive path."
Elizabeth Kennedy, 7th grade Academic Enrichment instructor
Riverwatch Middle School
“They feel liberated by having to only produce six words in a concise, poetic format. This is especially important to dyslexic students as they have experienced angst and ridicule surrounding written expression and quantity has been an encumbrance.”
Kat DeWees, teacher
Rawson Saunders School for Dyslexic Students
“Six-Word Memoirs has just taught me that if you sit long enough with a kid and you ask the right questions and you challenge them in the right ways, you will hear a story that you probably never would have imagined."
Tabitha Cooper, Senior English teacher
Metamora High School
“Many students in our class shared deeply personal experiences in their Six-Word Memoirs, and sharing them helped to bring our class closer together and build a team spirit.”
Leah Ruediger, teacher
NYC’s P.S. 86
The Bronx, NY
“Six-Word Memoirs taught us a lot about our students and also taught the kids that efficiency of language can be a powerful way to make a point or share something poignant about themselves.”