As a writing major and word lover, I spent a considerable amount of time teaching my upper grade students how to write. We wrote descriptive paragraphs, persuasive essays, fictional stories, poems, summaries, procedural paragraphs, responses to literature and journals. Some of my students were natural-born writers. Others needed a little more inspiration and support. Yet, by the end of the year, most of my students had become better writers. Here are some tips on how to improve your students’ writing skills.
# 1 Break it Down
You can’t expect your students to write well if they don’t know how to use vivid verbs, adjectives and correct grammar. Thus, each day, I would teach my kids about a different part of speech, sentence structure and/or figurative language. Then, we would try to apply that lesson to our writing. For instance, you might focus on prepositional phrases and then have students use a prepositional phrase at the beginning of a sentence. For example, In the morning, I ran for two exhilarating miles. These types of lessons can help your students vary their sentence structure and use vivid language in their writing.
# 2 Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are helpful for students to make a plan for their writing. A graphic organizer for fictional stories can help students choose a setting, characters, conflict and general direction for the story. It can also prevent kids from ending their story with a sudden, and then he woke up…it was all a dream. Graphic organizers are also great for summaries and response to literature type essays. Find dozens of graphic organizers at eduplace.com.
# 3 Rubrics
Your students can’t do better if they don’t understand the reason for their grade. A rubric can tell a student if their grammar or content needs to be improved. In addition, this can help students with peer editing, or teachers who want to have consistent grading across their grade level. You can also give your students their first draft with corrections along with a rubric so they can work on a second draft.
# 4 Model
Modeling examples of certain genres is a excellent way to show kids correct writing structure. Modeling different ways to start a persuasive essay or response to literature can help kids set up their first paragraph. I would often write a sample paragraph on my overhead projector or place a sample writing piece on my Smartboard so all the students could see it.
# 5 Inspire
One of the best ways to inspire kids is through excellent examples of writing. Exposing children to novels, picture books, poems and non-fiction can help them see what great writing looks like. I wrote more about using picture books to teach here. Using books on tape is another method to bring the literature to life.
# 6 Write for Fun
If kids don’t like to write, it’s going to be hard to teach them new forms of writing. For this reason, it’s important to give your students some time each day to write about whatever they want. You can also put up a funny cartoon or a vivid picture and have students write down some thoughts about the image.
# 7 Challenge
In my ninth grade Honors English class, my teacher would challenge us to use a specific grammar technique or type of descriptive language in our writing. She would give us an extra point on our essay if we used the new skill in our writing. The “challenge” could be anything from using personification to a gerund. This is a good way to challenge your students to vary their sentence structure or use more vivid language.
Improving your student’s writing skills is only a few steps away!
More from Melissa:
Keep Your Kids in “School Shape” Over Winter Break
Tips for Having Successful Reading Groups
How to Instill a Love for Reading in Your Child