While writing can be tough for some students, empowering students by incorporating choice, feedback, and peer editing can have a positive impact on student engagement and interest.
We all know, writing can be a challenge for some students, but providing students with choice during the writing process can go a long way. When kids feel in control of their writing, they are more engaged and invested in the process. Empowering students to make decisions during the writing process can help them become more engaged and invested in their work. And believe it or not, giving up a little control can have magical results!
Providing Choice (When Possible)
Providing choice during the brainstorming process whenever possible is key. Giving your students a few sample writing prompts or topics to choose from can really help spark their interest. This small amount of freedom allows students to feel ownership in the decision-making process and can also help get them excited about the work. Choosing to write about content that is familiar can build confidence. This also allows students to express their ideas about things they care about, know a lot about, or enjoy!
As great as this sounds, the reality is sometimes we need to give students structured prompts that align with a text being used within a lesson. When the writing task incorporates using sources, I use familiar picture books as mentor texts and give my students writing prompts about the stories. This is great for providing additional practice for the kids while incorporating space for creativity. Take a look at THIS free resource to see what this looks like!
Setting Expectations From The Start
Another very important and valuable aspect of writing is to provide clear expectations prior to starting drafting. Before beginning, I suggest going over a clear, easy to read rubric with your class. Try using a rubric that shows how the writing standards develop across the grade levels by adding in an “approaching” and an “above” column. This will motivate students to go above and beyond, and helps each student understand what is expected of them. Provide an additional copy of the rubric to be placed in students’ writing notebooks or binders. Model and encourage how the rubric can be referenced during the writing process to ensure requirements are met. In my class, I liked giving students publishing papers with a short self-evaluation checklist that could be used for student reflection and self-assessment before handing the piece in to me. I created editable versions for grades 1-5; you can find them HERE.
Collaborative Peer Editing
Once students complete drafts, I would highly encourage peer editing. Teachers have enough on their plates– offload this task on your kids! Peer editing allows students to collaborate and give and receive feedback to and from the other kids in the class. It challenges students to think critically, develop a clear understanding of expectations, and helps kids get better at their own writing!
One of my favorite ways to do this is through a collaborative activity that I like to call Musical Papers. Musical Papers can be done with any writing piece, and it’s great for teaching students how to polish up their editing skills. And not to mention, it’s super fun!
While they’re “playing”, students are actually editing their classmates’ writing in an organized, focused, and super structured way.
What Does This Look Like?
So here’s how the game works. Each student starts by putting their paper on their desk. Then, they pull out one colored pencil and that is their designated editing pencil. Now it’s important that it’s colored —I’ll get to that in a minute.
Once the kids are ready, they stand up, tuck in their chairs, and wait for music to start playing. When it starts, the kids have to travel around the room until the music stops. I let my kids dance as they travel around. As soon as the music stops, they sit down at the desk that’s closest to them and they write their name on their friend’s paper using their colored pencil. That way, any edits they make are done in their color, so it acts as an accountability piece.
Instead of having the students edit anything and everything, I tell students EXACTLY what they are editing for in that round. The kids absolutely love this activity! I have an awesome slide deck that you can use to play Musical Papers. You can find this resource HERE.
My last but VERY important tip is to end that long writing process with a bang! Throw a share party or create a writing showcase, once pieces are complete. Allow kids to walk around the room and read their published writing to their friends. Let them be proud and show off all their hard work!
I hope these tips have helped you in inspiring practices that provide choice, clear expectations, peer-editing, and celebrating writing in your classroom! I would like to encourage you to give them a try as you continue to motivate your writers and boost their confidence! Happy writing!