Many children struggle with writing. Some teachers labour over the right approach to provide the support children need. Should teachers focus on process writing where the emphasis is on activities such as brainstorming? Should they be overly strict about grammar and punctuation? Perhaps there may be a way to achieve great results while making the whole process interesting and fun for children.
In elementary school, story writing can be particularly beneficial for children. It improves both reading and writing skills. It can also be incredibly fun to do. It entertains and stimulates the imagination.
However, not all children will be interested. Sometimes, they dread it. At other times, they may feel the process is irrelevant. They may not see the end goal the way a teacher might. They might not see the connection to their own lives. Sometimes, children are reluctant to try. They may feel they lack the ability, they may have been criticized heavily or made fun of in the past. Additionally, young children usually start out being curious and ask lots of questions. But over time, various factors have an impact. Children begin to get hemmed in by expectations, societal norms, the need for rule and order and their true natures may become somewhat stifled. The more children can have fun engaging in these writing activities, the better they will become at it. They will gain confidence thus improving their ability even more.
For this reason, let’s consider the various ways in which you, as a teacher, can bring the fun back into the writing activity.
1. Use a writing prompt
This could be anything. You could use a simple one-sentence story starter such as “I found a small purple package outside my front door…” However, there are many other types of writing prompts such as a photo, illustration, what-if scenario, a word or even a phrase.
2. Get your students to create a small book
This is a creative process so besides the writing, they will also be looking to spend time and effort on designing the book, coming up with a great title, adding pages and illustrating. What a wonderful creation they can point to once they are finished!
3. Write a short poem
Make it easy for your students to develop their poem by providing the starting sentence. Have them think about their surroundings such as their classroom, the outdoors or the weather as well. Read them well-known poems to inspire them.
4. Read a short story in class
Pick an interesting short story which can serve as a model for your students’ own composition. They could follow the structure and style of the story read out. They could write on the same topic. They could also simply go off in a different direction and write something they are inspired by.
5. Provide some creative inspiration
Put an interesting quote on the board or draw a picture. Paint a scene for them to imagine. Introduce a new word for use.
6. Celebrate good writing
Recognise a student’s good writing in front of their peers. Read the piece of writing out loud to the class. Promote it to the other classes and the school in general by putting it up on the school’s social media or school newsletter. Frame it up on walls or create corridor or foyer displays.
7. Don’t focus so much on results, focus on process
As Jennifer Egan notes, “you can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.” Accept any ideas your students have. Allow them to make mistakes. If they get stuck midway, offer ideas or ask questions to help guide them.
8. Use newspapers and magazines
These are typically full of stories. There are colorful characters from politicians to singers and pop stars. There are plots, dialogue, settings and imagery that can inspire your students.
9. Employ story chains
A story chain is a simple method of passing a story around the class. There are multiple authors involved and each one picks up where the previous one left off. By making it a group activity, story writing becomes more engaging and fun.
10. Write a short story
Challenge students to write a 100-word story. By keeping it short, it gets the students started on the writing activity. Tiny narratives also challenge students to tighten their language, experiment with words and focus on their message.
Storyathon is an exciting and free online event where students are challenged to write a story that is exactly 100 words. Storyathon has already proven unbelievably popular with more than 2,000 classrooms participating. Teachers, feel free to join in now.