The one about teaching writing (Step 1: Writing Engagement)

Teaching writing can be very tricky because there are so many different kinds. There’s narrative, informative, persuasive, and poetic writings. How can you handle all of that?? This blog series is going to go over different parts of teaching writing and how we can truly reach our students. Our first step is writing engagement.

Text: Make Writing Engaging, get students excited, image: girl smiling holding pencil and paper, students happy in background

Step 1: Engagement
Some students love to write. And when I say love, I mean LOVE to write. They’ll write journal entries for pages, have sentences that go on for days, and carry around notebooks so they can write in their spare time.

Other students…well…they might dislike it. Some might even vehemently dislike it to the point that you’re frustrated with trying to get them to even try! So how do you sell your students on a writing project??

1. Use a book or short story to engage them. When I teach about scary stories, I use an excerpt from Invasion of the Road Weenies called “A Little Night Fishing.” Don’t say a word about writing…just read them the story. (Scary stories are of course more appropriate with the lights off.) Capture their feelings about the story. How do they think the writer managed to make them feel that way? Ask them if THEY want to make someone else feel that way (whether it’s scared or excited). Chances are, they’ll say yes. Picture books are an excellent source for story ideas! Check out this list for some of my favorites.

2. Choose an exciting topic, or better yet, let the students choose. Yes, students need to learn to write all kinds of different ways. But this is possible with SO MANY different topics. When I teach poetry in the spring, we take time to brainstorm as a class about all of the possible topics we could EVER write a poem about. Each student takes 2-3 minutes to write as many as they can. Then, they all shared at least one idea. After sharing, each student took another 2-3 minutes to write down some of the great ideas they heard. We love “piggybacking” off of each others’ ideas.

***Hand raised in the corner*** ??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♂️??‍♂️
“But Cait, I’m really worried about letting them choose their topic completely. Is there a way to let them choose without really choosing?”


Give them a choice. For example, when I teach research and informative writing for the first time, I want to know that students can find the information they need. I need some controlled resources for them to develop their research skills, while still having enough different topics so each student can take charge of their own topic. I explain that we’re going to be doing research, but I really need their help choosing a topic. Sometimes I give them a simple survey, which includes things they’ve learned about in science and social studies, but we can research more to learn more. Other times, we brainstorm together, then I create a survey off of topics that I know will fit our needs, and then we vote.

The trick with student choice is to give them a little control, but not too much. ?

What are some of your favorite ways to get students excited about writing?

Okay, great work, everyone. Now we’ve got them all engaged and excited…what next?? 
Click here for Step 2: Pre-writing.

Need some ready-to-go writing units? Check out my print & digital units in my TpT store here. They come complete with unit plans (engagement ideas!), graphic organizers, peer editing tools, and more. 

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