Is Writing An Issue Right Now?

Here’s what I am thinking about this week: writing! Writing is hard work. It requires thinking about ideas and then keeping those ideas in your head long enough to get them down on paper. Writing is hard for adults, so of course, it will be challenging work for kids. However, writing is also very natural and kids enjoy sharing their stories and ideas with others. 

On the first day of the semester, a student walked into the writing class I teach and shared that she needs this course because she needs support with how to teach writing. She explained that she is noticing that her elementary students are struggling with writing and become frustrated quickly. After she said this, many of the other students agreed with her. So, it made me question – is writing an issue right now? 

Since the pandemic began, we have been hearing in the news, from administrators, from parents and teachers that reading is a concern and that students are behind with reading. But, what about writing? Is there a concern that students are not as interested in or are struggling with writing? 

First, writing is like a muscle – if it’s not practiced, it will be a weaker skill. In order to strengthen the writers in our classroom, they need to write – every single day! And, I don’t mean that they should respond to the prompts you created every day. Instead, model to the students some ideas that you and they can write about. For example, family members, trips to the park, going out to eat at a restaurant, playing video games, etc. The sky is the limit here, the idea is to help them brainstorm or generate a list of ideas that they can write about. Then, show them how you go about writing about one of the topics on the list. If you are working with younger or emergent writers, you should draw a picture first, then label the picture, before moving on to the writing of the story. Next, give the students 10 minutes to write about their topic. If you think that they need more time, that’s great – give them some more time to complete their writing. The writing that they are doing can be in any form – as a poem, a list, as a text message in speech bubbles, etc. Finally, have them share their writing or a sentence of their writing (if they are not comfortable sharing their whole piece) with a partner. This helps them see that their writing is seen by other members of the class and not just by you – the teacher. 

Kids need direct instruction on how to write, so it is important to model the writing that you want them to do – so that they have an understanding of what the writing can look like. Additionally, while you are modeling your writing to the students, don’t be afraid to show them where and what you struggle with when you are writing. For example, “I never know how to start my writing. I’m going to start with a question, but I don’t love this, so I may fix it or change it later.” It’s ok to show them that writing can be challenging for you, too. 

I’m curious – have you noticed that your students are not as confident about their writing? What are some strategies that you have tried to help them with their writing?