A Recipe for Motivating Creative Writers
Article by Vicci Recckio
Motivating young writers should be a natural and ongoing process in the first and second grade classroom environment. A simple recipe for motivating young children to write starts with enthusiasm, provides a healthy helping of fun opportunities, and mixes in lots of creativity. Don't forget to save room for sharing and display.
First ingredient, enthusiasm.
When motivating young children to write, creating enthusiasm is the main ingredient. Children are much more likely to participate in an activity if they are excited about it. Adults try to avoid tasks that aren't very exciting, children are no different. To spark enthusiasm within the future writer bring in your own personal journals, share personal writing you may have, hang up handwritten (and email) notes and letters, display favorite books and magazines, and show-off fun invitations and greeting cards. Allow the children to bring in any kind of writing they may have at home. Use these collections to set up a shared writing corner featuring different types and forms of writing. These real life (and personal) connections coming from an enthusiastic teacher are just small portions of how to inspire and motivate young writers to pick up a pen, a pencil,or even a crayon!
Now that you've sparked the childrens' enthusiasm, the next step is to keep this enthusiasm and motivation alive by providing a variety of opportunities. Simple tips to keep in mind are to have the children actively participate when teaching creative writing skills, link writing activities to topics they are familiar and excited about, and finally, connect writing activities to books, authors and illustrators!
Sample Writing Activities
- Ideas for actively involving and motivating the writer may begin as early in the morning as opening/calendar time. Choose children to contribute a sentence for a daily newspaper. While you take their dictation have the class help you sound out and spell the words. While writing their sentences (where everyone can see,) make some errors and then have the children come up to edit your mistakes. Provide fun markers or pens and have them circle your mistakes then make their corrections. In the beginning your "mistakes" can be as simple as letter formation, omission of periods, or misspelling simple sight words. It takes just a few minutes everyday and already they will have observed sentence structure, proofreading, and the editing process by age 7! At the end of each month turn all the newspaper pages into a class book for your classroom library.
- Another tip for providing creative writing opportunities is to link writing topics to who the children are familiar with and to what excites them. If you have a "student of the week", let the children write questions for this person. During quiet reading time allow them to take a precut sentence strip and have them write a question for their friend. Model sample questions and keep your examples on display. Also, it helps to keep a question word wall nearby. Then, when you have a minute or two, choose one of their questions and read it out loud. They'll be so interested in finding out information about their friend and having their question read out loud, they won't even realize that they are writing! For those that struggle with beginning writing, offer help and take a quick dictation.
- Using books, authors and illustrators to help motivate children will also provide a great taste of the creative writing process. Take Maurice Sendak for example. When reading a collection of his books, allow the children to become book critics and record their comments about each book on chart paper. Eventually they'll be able to write their own critiques. Some other ideas include brainstorming and recording predictions, keeping an ongoing word wall using the author's vocabulary and characters (the children will enjoy finding similarities between the stories,) or have them write or draw different endings to the stories. Now that they have practiced writing questions, let them write questions to Maurice Sendak or just discuss the questions in class together. The Maurice Sendak link will provide you with interesting facts about his life, his writing style, along with more writing activities to use in the classroom. After reading and writing about Maurice Sendak, why not use the same or similar ideas for motivating young writers with different authors. More information about Marc Brown and Amy Tan can be found at http://pbskids.org/arthur/grownups/marc_brown/index.html and http://pbskids.org/sagwa/bts/index.html.
Extending Opportunities and Sharing Work
While stirring up enthusiasm and opportunities, slowly keep pouring in creativity. Let the children help guide and create the lessons. If you planned one writing activity and they become excited about something else, do it! If you are about to finish a writing activity, and they come up with an extension or have an idea for another similar writing activity, follow their lead! If time doesn't permit in class, give them the option and tools for finishing it or writing it at home. Motivating writers can and should be done all day, not just in the language arts scheduled time slots. Using hands-on creative activities as opposed to "worksheets" will increase childrens' appetite for creative writing.
While the enthusiasm, opportunity and creativity is being offered, please save room for sharing and display. The more the children see and share their work, the more connections they will make to developing strong reading and writing skills. At the end of every writing lesson, save 3-5 minutes so the children can share their work and get a taste of their peer's accomplishments. Hang up their work, take photographs of their writing, and turn completed projects into classroom books every chance you get. The more words and samples they see in their room (especially authored and illustrated by them) the more motivated to write they become. Just keep in mind, the creative writing process will "taste" a lot better if there is someone to share and savor it with!
About the Author
Vicci Recckio received her multiple-subject teaching credential along with a supplement in English from San Diego State University. Vicci taught kindergarten in San Diego, California at Warren-Walker School. She now lives Europe and teaches first grade at an international school in Waterloo, Belgium. She teaches multiple primary subjects in English using the Primary Years Programme (PYP) Curriculum.
Published: October 2003