Students must practice writing in short, daily exercises to develop the fluency needed to become better at writing formal, graded papers.
One writing exercise is to lecture for five to nine minutes, have students write notes for that lecture and then have students read it to a class partner.
Students will be less reluctant to write when the subjects are familiar.
After observing that even ‘poor’ writers write better when choosing a topic they really know–for example, a dramatic bicycle crash vividly described by an otherwise reluctant student–my philosophy changed from “It’s my job to assign writing” to “It’s my job to help students discover what they know before they write, and celebrate good writing.” Suddenly, every classroom activity is fodder for an opportunity to “write what you know.”
Students, like athletes, need lots of practice to improve. Frequent, authentic writing about content-related observations, questions, or experiences provide low-risk opportunities where students “see what they know.” Daily writing is rehearsal before asking students to lay it on the line in formal, graded papers.
Many teachers assign writing, skipping over the needed practice, and are disappointed when students fail to rise to expectations.
Incorporating writing opportunities into classroom routines also provides think-time and a chance to develop a written voice. And, when used to advance classroom work, the writing need not be collected, graded, or read by the classroom teacher.
Here are a few ways to incorporate writing and give students much needed practice:
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