Creative block can stop even the most seasoned writers in their tracks, let alone a young author-to-be still learning to master the basics.
That’s why it’s up to us, their teachers, to give our students a solid foundation on which to build their writing skills.
Table of Contents
- Writing Strategy #1: Ad-Lib with Framed Paragraphs
- Writing Strategy #2: Cook Up Some Juicy Paragraph Hamburgers
- Writing Strategy #3: Build a RAFT
- Motivating Students to Write
Just as sailors and pirates learn how to navigate the sea by the positions of the sun and stars, learning effective writing strategies can help our elementary students navigate the weird, wild world of language and creative writing.
Just like a cloudless sky makes it easier to see the stars, the best writing strategies are clear, compelling and easy to learn, remember and—most of all—enjoy!
Of course, even teachers can sometimes find themselves at a loss. To help make your job a little easier, I’ve rounded up a few of the very best writing strategies out there.
These are tried-and-true methods most of us are already fairly familiar with—which is why I’ve also included some ideas for putting new spins on these old classics to keep things fresh and exciting. At the bottom of this post, you will also find a list of things you can do to help motivate your students to write!
Writing Strategy #1: Ad-Lib with Framed Paragraphs
The simplest solution to the blank page predicament is to avoid it entirely.
Instead of an empty sheet of paper, try giving your students the bare-bones framework of a paragraph in a fill-in-the-blank format. Framed paragraphs, which consist of pre-written sentences with empty spaces for students to fill in with their own words, are an excellent writing strategy for younger elementary students for a number of reasons:
- The firm structure encourages better focus. Providing a set framework to write within prevents wandering run-on sentences and fragments while keeping students on topic and on task.
- You can zoom in on particular parts of speech. Whether you’re working on adverbs or it’s time to talk about nouns, you can easily create a framed paragraph that directs your students’ attention to one or more specific elements at a time.
- You can easily adapt it to your students’ current level of mastery. For beginners, keep sentence structure simple and paragraphs short. Once they’ve got the basics down, you can begin to vary the structure and make sentences more complex for an added challenge.
- It’s perfect for word games! As I love to remind my students (and my fellow teachers!), just because it’s a lesson doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. A rousing ad-lib word game (think Mad Libs!) might be just the ticket to lightening up the lesson and brightening your students’ day.
Framed paragraphs are the perfect way to teach students proper structure and flow while still leaving plenty of room for their creativity and personality to shine through.
Framed paragraphs are the perfect way to teach proper structure and flow to beginning writers while still leaving plenty of room for their creativity and personality to shine through.
Writing Strategy #2: Cook Up Some Juicy Paragraph Hamburgers
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so why not try teaching writing a bit more visually? One excellent writing strategy for elementary students is known as the paragraph hamburger.
It’s a graphic organizer that depicts a paragraph as—you guessed it—a hamburger, in which the topic sentence is the top bun and the conclusion is the bottom bun, while examples and supporting details make up the tasty fillings. The paragraph hamburger strategy works well for young writers because:
- It’s visually engaging. There’s a reason kids’ books are illustrated. Showing how a paragraph is like one of your students’ favorite foods isn’t just a creative comparison—especially for more visually-inclined students, it’s more interesting to look at and easier to remember than a worksheet, not to mention more fun!
- It’s easy to show how each part relates to the others. The structure of a paragraph hamburger helps students understand how basic paragraph framing works. Just like how the buns hold the burger together, the topic sentence and conclusion hold their sentences together, while the juicy details make their writing more flavorful and satisfying.
- It allows a little more freedom without sacrificing structure. This strategy gives students the freedom to come up with their own topic and style while still providing the right amount of support to get them started writing and help them finish.
- Students can get more creative with mixed media. While you can always download a free template of a paragraph hamburger to use as a worksheet, I prefer to let my students’ imaginations run wild and have them draw their own! This adds a little extra fun to the assignment and makes for great classroom wall art.
Paragraph hamburgers are an ideal writing strategy for students who need a little extra help understanding how the parts of a paragraph work together as a whole.
Writing Strategy #3: Build a RAFT
For elementary students who are already familiar with the basics of sentence and paragraph construction, it’s time to start thinking about the bigger picture. That’s where the RAFT writing strategy comes in. RAFT stands for:
- Role of the Writer
Rather than zeroing in on structure, RAFT focuses on helping students define how to write about a topic and why they are writing it. RAFT is especially effective as a strategy because:
- It’s comprehensive. RAFT allows your students to think critically and creatively about longer pieces of writing as a whole, not just as separate sentences and paragraphs
- The acronym makes it easy to remember. It also creates a vivid narrative—the image of building a physical raft makes for a nice visual representation of how this strategy can help them keep their writing from sinking!
- It helps students explore alternate viewpoints. With RAFT, students consider not just who they are writing as (themselves, or someone else?), but who they are writing for—and how different answers to these questions can impact the way they write.
- It’s flexible across all subjects and formats. This strategy comes in handy no matter what your students are writing about or whether they’re writing an essay, a letter, or a poem. The sky’s the limit!
The RAFT writing strategy is best suited for elementary students who are already familiar with the nuts and bolts of writing and are ready to begin using those elements to build something a little more complex and in-depth.
Writing, like reading, is a journey into the unknown. You never know where you’re going to end up! It’s exciting, but it can also seem a bit overwhelming for newer writers who may not be sure how to get started or what direction to go in.
By using writing activities to teach your elementary students effective strategies like framed paragraphs, paragraph hamburgers and RAFT, you can help them avoid losing their way (or losing interest) as they begin to explore their creative potential.
Motivating Your Students to Write
There are some of our students who take to writing like a fish to water, but others need a little extra motivation. Here are a few things you can do to get your students excited about writing.
1. Use writing from multiple genres as examples
Every one of your students has a different set of interests and showing multiple examples of writing that speak to those interests can be a great motivator.
It is very important to have an idea of what your students are interested in. You may have two or three who love fantasy board games and a few others who are fascinated by math and science.
You don’t have to have an example that caters to everyone individually, but you can choose ones that you know resonate with multiple students at once.
2. Present writing in different types of media
The cool thing about writing (especially creative writing) is that it is everywhere. TV, ads, websites, etc. all can be used as examples of creative writing.
You know those YouTubers our students all know and love? A lot of them have scripts or at least outlines that they have to go off of when they make videos.
You can also talk about popular movies and how writers craft every single word that is said on screen. Here is the script to How to Train Your Dragon that you can pull up as an example.
3. Model writing in the real world
We have all heard one of our students (or a classmate in the past) ask the question, “When will we use this in real life?” or simply state that they don’t need to know how to write for whatever reason they come up with. My favorite is, “I don’t need to know how to write because I am going to be a (insert a career that isn’t centered around writing).”
I have found that giving general examples of writing in the real world shows students that it is a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives.
You can talk about writing emails, making work presentations or even writing resumes and cover letters so they can get that awesome job when they are older.
Don’t stick on the subject for too long, just give them enough information to get the point across. Although, this isn’t directly related to creativity, it does help put the importance of writing into perspective.
4. Publish and share their writing
This is one of the best ways to encourage your students to produce their best work and the incentive of becoming a published author is exciting!
Creating a classbook allows your students to create pages that are theirs and they are proud to show off their work to friends and family. Some students discover that they enjoy writing more than they originally thought before the project.
Having your students become published authors is a great way to build their confidence as writers and gives them something tangible that represents their hard work and creativity.
For free resources to help guide your students through the unpredictable landscape of creative writing, be sure to check out our online teacher’s lounge, and sign up today for your free publishing kit.
Original post date: 09/17/2017