4 Strategies For Supporting Student Writers
Guiding students to grow as writers is a long process, and it’s not easy. Teaching writing is a process—over time and with the right guidance and support our students can grow into better writers. We may feel frustrated that their final pieces aren’t polished to perfection, but if we look closely, within those imperfect final drafts are flickers of insight and bits of mastery.
We need to celebrate these small victories, and be patient as our students gradually master the myriad of skills involved in becoming a writer.
1. Emphasize reading:
You learn to read by reading and you learn to write by reading. Tell the students that something magical happens when we read—the words and sentences enter our consciousness, float around, and drift out through our pen or keyboard in our own narrative voice.
When students immerse themselves in John Green, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, or J.K. Rowling, those writers’ language and its wisdom seeps into their thinking and pours out into their writing.
2. Give them permission to take risks:
Many teachers complain that their students can’t write sentences. In order to free students from the constraints of correctness, give them permission to break some of the rules that have been drilled into them since elementary school. As we read, we notice how the stylistic choices that defy convention are often the phrases we love the most. We then make bold attempts to experiment with these techniques in our own writing. We begin sentences with conjunctions, take liberties with rhetorical questions, repetition, and figurative language.
3. Make them care:
Students should understand that their ideas can bring about change, so work to give them choices to write about topics they feel passionate about. Let them ask probing questions and devote the time necessary to develop a compelling argument, meticulously craft sentences, and carefully choose their words.
4. Feedback, feedback, and more feedback:
It would be easy to circle errors in red pen, write a few comments, and return papers with a letter grade, but most teachers don’t do that—the amount of time we spend on grading student writing is staggering. And much of this feedback is not improving their writing.
Assign "peer editors" who can help each other. Give them guidelines to check for. All of this feedback will result in final drafts that are much stronger and grades that are higher. But more importantly, students feel supported and encouraged as they’re learning to write.
(Indebted to various sources)