Question Detail

I am a first year ELA teacher and I am having trouble finding engaging ways to teach writing. I teach reading for 45 minutes and that seems to be going well. However, once we switch to writing, it's like a whole new world. I don't know how to get the students to be interested in writing. It is especially frustrating when some of the students write a couple of sentences and then say "I'm done." I teach 6th grade so that is another challenge since they are at an awkward age and don't want to share anything. It becomes an awkward class where time goes slow and too many students claim they are done and "have nothing to do."

Jan 8, 2016 10:07am

  • English Language Arts
  • 6
  • Engagement


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    • Jan 12, 2016 11:01am

      Consider teaching writing as a form of play. That's what authors do -- they play with words, syntactical structures, figurative language in order to convey their meaning most effectively.

      Next semester, I plan on teaching "writing moves" and challenging students to use them in their own writing. We compete in small groups to see who can use the most writing moves, like parallelism or anaphora or whatever they have already learned.

      • Jan 18, 2016 5:12am has many resources for using picture books and the 6+1 Writing Traits to engage students in the Writing Process. Fiction and Informational Text resources make this an easy way to integrate writing with your reading time, too...if you would like to do that!

        • Jan 24, 2016 6:01pm

          Thank you, everyone! All of your advice is greatly appreciated! I probably also should've mentioned exactly why there is such a lack of flow between reading and writing. For my school, we have Read 180 for the students who are 2 or more grade levels behind in their reading scores. For the first 45 minutes of each of my 3 classes, Read 180 students leave the class and I do my novel with the remaining students. After 45 minutes, the whole class is with me and we do our writing portion. I would love to incorporate my reading with writing, but not all of the kids are on the same page so that is what makes it so difficult. There is no flow and I am not sure how to fix that. Sometimes we even run behind in reading and that cuts into the writing and the returning students sit there, bored. We have been working on personal narratives but it has been difficult.

          • Mar 12, 2016 3:42pm

            This is a reply to the OP

            I recommend anything written by Kelly Gallagher, especially his book, Write Like This. One important technique he advocates is teacher modeling. He tells us that we "are the best writer in the room." If we model our own thought processes, including changing our minds on how to write an idea or recognizing mistakes and fixing them, our students can see that writing is a skill we all can improve.

            For prompts relating to their reading, ask general questions about character, conflict, and other literature elements or about main idea and evidence if they read an information piece. It won't matter that they all read something different.

            Also, ask them leading questions about whatever they have already written so they can add the answer.

            Another suggestion is that before they write anything, pair them up and have them talk about what they could write to each other. Have one speak and the other ask questions to clarify or even make suggestions on what to add. The speaker should then begin to write what was said while the listener can remind the now-writer about anything that was forgotten. Then they trade places.

            • Mar 12, 2016 8:14pm

              Have you tried Lucy Calkins Units of study? Also the Portland Public School units of study is very helpful. Nancy Fetzer is another great one you may like. I would begin with lots of read alouds that offer open ended questions.

              • Mar 13, 2016 2:54pm

                Lucy Calkins has recently developed middle school writing curriculum that response to the interest and CCSS needs of that age group. Donald Graves also has great respect for writers and the writing process that supports students. Another writing guru to be inspired by in Middle School is Nancie Atwell. All of these authors have taught what they recommend so they have been there to understand your needs and your students needs.

                • Mar 13, 2016 4:37pm

                  Try turning your normal writing block into Writing Workshop! Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi have a book about it that is GREAT.