The Top 4 Ways to Get Students Writing

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As a former English teacher and lifetime lover of education technology, I’ve thought a LOT about student writing with technology. I am also always interested in ways to motivate students to do what we all know is best for their learning in sneaky ways, kind of like when you hide the broccoli inside the cookies. (Gross, don’t do that.)

One thing about writing is that the more you do of it, the better you get at it, but getting students to write and even understanding how much they write is harder than it sounds. Non-educators think teachers just say, “Write a three page paper,” and voila, a three page paper from each little scholar appears. Educators know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into EVERY writing assignment, not for the students, for the teachers. So, in the spirit of making life easier for ourselves, here are some ways to get students writing more with less effort for you, the educator.

  1. Make that audience more than just an audience of one. High schools used to spend thousands of dollars a semester on getting printed newspapers out around the school. It was a cool thing, but it cost a lot of money and was extremely hard to produce. WHAT IF you could produce a FREE newspaper or magazine of student writing any old time completely for free? Well, you can of course. Try out this SlidesMania template to get started. Consider “publishing” your students’ writing and creating a short url to get the edition out all over the school.
  2. Get students blogging. Yes, I know, blogging was all the rage in education once and now has sort of gone out of style, but the idea is still relevant and students know all about the world of “bloggers,” now they’re influencers who are selling products online by incorporating them into their lives. Little kids now will even say they want to be bloggers when they grow up. Well kids, now’s your chance to practice! Blogging is free and there are tons of tools students can use to get started. If your district allows, Google’s tool Blogger is still alive and well. If not, perhaps each student starting a Google Site is a better way to proceed since writers can easily embed any sort of content.
  3. Writing is not just for essays. Try to think outside the box when you’re considering writing topics. Letters to pen pals are SO FUN! Kids these days don’t get a lot (or any?) snail mail. I imagine something so old school would be quaint and fun. Find a teacher from another place (maybe on Twitter?) and get your kids connected and writing to each other.
  4. Have students from one class write to students from another class or grade level. In my classroom students did daily writing and one of the most fun topics we wrote about worked like this . . . . Two of my classes were reading The Catcher in the Rye, and no, it wasn’t the 70s; it’s still a good book. I had one group of students, let’s say first period, write questions they would like to ask Holden Caulfield. They left their papers with questions for me, then third period I gave the questions to the students to answer AS Holden Caulfield. The best part was watching first period read “Holden’s” answers to their questions. Many of them seemed to forget that “Holden” was really a student from Mrs. Mayer’s third period. Super fun!

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Amy Mayer, nationally known speaker and Google professional development guru, got her start in education as an English and Foreign Language teacher. Since that time, she’s served as a district level director of multiple varieties and now is the CEO of friEdTech, a Google & Microsoft partner company serving districts across the United States. Amy is passionate about student (and teacher) engagement and equity in education.

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