There’s no denying it, teaching writing can be daunting.
Now add to that the challenge of disengaged students – or worse, students that don’t even want to go to school – and it becomes an impossible task.
Yet according to AERO CEO, Dr Jenny Donovan: “Writing is the foundation skill that students require to understand and communicate what they are learning across all their school subjects, and one of the most important skills in working life.”
So how do we teach this vital life skill in a way that will reach our disengaged students? When many of us feel we don’t have the tools to do it?
Improving student engagement, one step at a time
The key is to start small. Taking small, manageable steps builds student confidence and makes writing fun and achievable for all ability levels.
One program is helping teachers and schools do just that. Seven Steps to Writing Success is an award-winning approach to teaching writing that is proven to get results, but most importantly – kids love it. And it’s doing wonders to boost student engagement in the classroom.
“My students have reaped the benefits of the Seven Steps and it has improved their writing abilities significantly, from my lower-end students who struggled significantly before through to gifted students who were able to improve and hone their writing. It is such a game changer for teaching writing skills,” says Year 5 teacher Nicole Gorrie.
Natalie Chapman in WA saw an immediate impact in her classroom after starting the program: “I started with Sizzling Starts and the classroom just exploded with keen and creative writers. All my reluctant students had something written down and everyone wanted to share. Literally every one of my 32 students!”
5 tips for lifting engagement and transforming writing
“At its core writing is simple,” says author and Seven Steps founder, Jen McVeity OAM. “All I did was break down the techniques of writing to make them easier to teach; more accessible, more practical.”
Here are Jen’s top 5 tips for turning even the most reluctant writer into a passionate storyteller:
1. Break down the task; Keep it simple
Don’t ask students to write the whole story (or whole persuasive text) … at least not until they’re confident in how to tackle the individual elements of a text. This means students publish their work at the sentence and paragraph level initially and slowly progress as their skills improve. The results will be far better in the long run.
2. Share and celebrate great writing, in all forms
Students (even teenagers, though they might not want to admit it) have an innate love for stories and storytelling. But they need to see lots (and lots!) of examples of it. By modelling different genres and different types of media (videos, comic strips, ads, movies), they will start to recognise the patterns of great writing in all its forms.
3. Make your writing lessons noisy, fun … and short
A noisy writing classroom, with lots of laughter and interaction, means your students are brainstorming, collaborating and learning from each other. Using short writing activities is the easiest way to create a noisy and fun writing space. And if writing is fun, you want to do it and you want to do it often. If you do it often then you’ll probably get better at it. If you’re better at it, it’s more fun.
4. Have your students write often
Create a short daily writing activity you can tweak every day to keep students engaged. Give them plenty of opportunities to brainstorm and write with different topics or forms of text (short stories, science reports, poems, persuasive arguments, comics, etc). Once they have a portfolio of writing, ask them to choose which piece THEY think is the best and then share it. When students are writing often, they’ll succeed often and their confidence will surge!
5. Celebrate successes!
Create a Wow Wall, share great writing at assembly, hand out certificates and create daily sharing moments! Don’t save these moments for only whole texts – celebrate a start that sizzles or an ending with impact. The more positive associations students have with the writing process, the more excited they’ll be to do it again.
Try these tips and watch students take off. As Seven Steps founder Jen says: “The key is to unlock the joy and power of writing for kids, then they’re unstoppable!”
In an effort to help teachers boost student engagement and unlock student creativity, Seven Steps is holding a free live webinar on Tuesday 25 July, called Sizzling Starts™: The easiest way to improve students’ writing.
The above article originally appeared as a media release from Seven Steps to Writing Success and has been republished with permission.