It’s that time of the year where you’ve bonded with your students, they understand your class rules and how it functions, and now – now the tests are looming.
We need to prepare students for their standardized exams which usually incorporate some form of writing. So let me share 7 quick tips on how to get the most out of student writing.
- START FROM THE SMALLER PARTS TO THE LARGER PRODUCT
In order to get your budding writers to understand the writing process, I suggest getting them to understand the foundation of an essay. Yes, parts of speech and parts of a sentence.
Let em have it: subject and verb. Instruct them on how it works, then have them stack ’em up and turn them into paragraphs. Finally have them move on to essays.
Some teachers do this in the reverse: from whole to small parts of an essay [an inverted triangle], but working from sentence structure to a full-blown essay works easier for me and my students; chances are it’ll work for you too! Try it!
2. USE MENTOR TEXTS
Show students what good writing looks like? You want them to write good fiction, good letters, good speeches, good technical essays? Then, show them! Get exemplars for students to read, analyze, and mimic!
You can always use these for references once students have moved on. “Oh, do you remember how Martin Luther King, Jr. used X?” “Do you see how Thoreau started off with X?” These remind students of where their writing should be and how to get them back on track.
3. DEMONSTRATE THE WRITING
Show students what you want them to accomplish. Yes, you’ve used MENTOR TEXTS, but now they’ll see you writing with them.
One way I demonstrate how I want students to write is to write on my whiteboard as we brainstorm new ideas. Students see what I’m doing and they’re involved in my stylistic, diction, and content choices.
Another way I demonstrate writing is to THINK ALOUD. As we work on the chalk, white, or SMART board, students hear me ask questions and think about my next writing moves; they get to see and understand – and participate – in my choices to make the writing better.
4. USE SENTENCE STARTERS
Can you imagine not knowing where else to go with your ideas? Our students run into this all the time, so we need to help them out! As they’re writing, we encourage and propel their thoughts though providing SENTENCE STARTERS and STOCK LANGUAGE.
Brandon could never get his thoughts out. He’d be able to get a few words on the page, but after I taught him how to use STOCK LANGUAGE and vocabulary, his thoughts started flowing. I’m telling you – it works!
5. INTEGRATE VOCABULARY
Many times as English Language Arts [ELA] teachers, we limit the vocabulary we teach to what’s available in students’ reading. Students would then only be able to use those few words in those limited contexts.
Adding a regular list of VOCABULARY WORDS to their curriculum gives students a better chance to understand what they read and how they write.
Remind them to include, include, include as they write for you, whether it be bell ringers and class openers, assignments, essays, short response assignments, or exit tickets, let them use the words. Guess what?! Sometimes, you don’t need even check each and every proper use of the words, as the students use it, they’ll start to realize the proper usage. They’ll be so excited as they learn new words!
6. USE A RUBRIC
As we foster budding writers, students will need scaffolding! They’ll need to know how and where to place words and punctuation; this is where a template comes in. This empowers students, as they fill in their words and produce a product for you!
Rubrics also make our reading of student work easier. Utilizing these rubrics allows both students and teacher to know when the writing is great or not up to par.
Does this evidence make sense here? Did Sally answer the prompt? Is the use of the semi-colon correct? All these questions can be answered swiftly with a rubric.
Watch out, however, rubrics may limit creativity and have students only giving what’s on the list of ‘right’ things to do; they may limit their own writing greatness!
7. USE WRITER’S WORKSHOPS
So I walk around and meet them where they are. You! You guessed it! I sit with them sometimes. Also, I have workshop style essay exams. I would literally help them structure their introductions, body, and conclusions as they test.
“Nope, that can’t work there!” “Yes! Your second sentence works better here; I love it!” This can be heard in my class as students all work individually.
As well, Writer’s Workshops projects allow students to use what they’ve learned about writing in a fun, adventurous way! Our students don’t have to be relegated to only writing essays to show their mastery of writing skills, they can actually utilize their skills in projects that cater to them and their levels of interest and writing! Watch your students become WRITING SUPERHEROES!
Can we get our students to write and write well? Most definitely! Scaffolding from parts of speech, sentence structure, and paragraph building to full-blown essays and research papers can happen! Use these tips as I did and you’ll see greater writers develop right in front of your eyes!