Twenty-Five Ways to Motivate Young Authors

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Inspiring students is the key to improving their writing skills. Writing with a purpose is the primary motivator in producing high quality work. Authentic writing activities encourage students to focus on their strengths and areas of interest while simultaneously working to improve their weaknesses.

"Why do we have to do this?"
It's the question you dread to hear, but teachers who hear it are given a golden opportunity for a teaching moment.

There are many purposes of writing:

  • Get a driver's license
  • Fill out a job application
  • Create a resume
  • Express feelings
  • Organize thoughts
  • Pass a class
  • Get into college
  • Earn a living

The better people are at writing the more likely it is that they'll get what they want out of life. Writing isn't the end; it's the means to an end. It's a tool. Explaining the purpose of writing to students is a necessity so that they understand what it is they are doing and why. Find ideas organized under four different categories of motivational activities:

      • Provide structure, direction, and modeling
      • Write from what you know
      • Write with a motive
      • Respond to something

Provide structure, direction, and modeling
As the leader of the class, it is up to the teacher to provide the avenues by which good writing can occur.

1. Develop a consistent structure for writing:

  • Brainstorm new ideas.
  • Develop a first draft.
  • Revise to improve content.
  • Edit for mechanical corrections.
  • Publish a final draft to share in Author's Chair.

2. Model the writing process:

  • Take notes.
  • Make outlines.
  • Draw mind maps.
  • Keep all notes for future ideas.

3. Model good writing behavior as you evolve through the writing process. Teachers need to be seen brainstorming, getting stuck, asking others for feedback, making changes, and providing rational arguments for not making changes suggested by others. These behaviors should take place in the context of others working and going through the same process.

4. Share examples of your own writing. Include rough drafts, revisions, and final copies. It is important for students to see that everyone goes through the writing process, receives criticism from others, and makes drastic changes in an effort to improve the end product.

5. Ask questions. Many times students do not put all of their supporting ideas on paper, so what appear to be big gaps in the story to a reader are not big gaps to the writer. Asking questions rather than telling students what to write is beneficial in the revision stage.

6. Accept different forms of writing on the same topic. For example, if the topic is bears, acceptable activities might include reports, poems, creative writing stories, plays, or songs. Allowing a variety of genres keeps intrinsic motivation high.

7. Create a special time, place, and chair for Author's Chair. During this occasion students are given an opportunity to share their final pieces of work with the class and receive positive feedback from the audience.

8. Celebrate all efforts, especially those of struggling writers. Find something good in students' writing, and after getting permission from the author, share it with his or her peers.

9. Encourage collaboration. Partner writing can produce better results than two people writing separately if the expectation is that both writers will be held to a higher quality standard than they would be if they wrote alone.

10. Use portfolios. They provide evidence to students and their families of writing improvement. Each student needs a file, binder, or some way to organize his or her work.

Write from what you know
Adults sometimes take for granted everyday events that can become the basis for meaningful writing. This second set of motivators can provide the impetus necessary for students to become engaged in writing.

11. Develop writing experiences around real-life events.

  • Create invitations with the vital "Who? What? Where? When? Why?" for class performances.
  • Design thank-you notes for guest speakers, reading buddies, pen pals, class neighbors, parents, grandparents, friends, or family.
  • Arrange a menu for a math activity.
  • Diagram something studied in science.
  • Write a comic strip using comedy, irony, common sense, morals, analogy, metaphor, or straight talk to get the message across.

12. Bring someone or something to class. After interviewing a person or studying something, ask students to write what they learned from the experience. Request that students make connections between what was known prior to the experience and what was learned. Ask them how their thinking changed since learning something new.

13. Go somewhere or do something. The excitement of new places or circumstances generates inspirational writing. Prepare students for writing about an experience by requesting that they use their five senses to take notice of details and think about things of interest during the event.

14. Create a class newspaper. Inspire interest in current events by using a local paper as a model for reporting class events. Class projects in every subject area can be presented as news articles with headers, bylines, lead-ins, bodies, and summary paragraphs. Word games, weather, horoscopes, and after-school activities can be integrated with whatever content is being taught.

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