Welcome to the first post in our WfP Helpline series. This is where we try to answer your most pressing questions and help solve those most difficult teaching problems.
If you’ve got a question or problem you’d like help with, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post or drop us an email.
This week we are answering the question: What do I do when my class hates writing?
There are lots of reasons why children can ‘hate’ writing. It can be due to negative past experiences, a lack of success, or low levels of self-belief. It can be because writing feels utterly unnatural, alien and confusing. They don’t know what they are meant to do or how to do it. They may also think writing is boring and pointless.
Writer-teacher Donald Graves, famously said ‘children want to write’ and I agree. I’ve yet to meet a child who actually hates writing. I’ve only met children who hate how they are taught to write.
To help combat these feelings, teachers can focus on using teaching practices which combat these common issues. Our research last year, which looked to understand what it is the best teachers of writing do that makes the difference, showed that they focus on teaching practices which increase children’s motivation, self-efficacy, self-regulation and levels of agency.
Here is a quick list of the things these teachers do that makes the difference:
- Ensure children are writing, publishing and performing for reasons beyond just teacher evaluation.
- Take time to explain why children are undertaking the class writing project and where their writing is going to go, be seen, or read at its end.
- Take time to discuss the audience who is going to receive their writing.
- Convince the class that they are going to learn something valuable about writing by participating in the class project.
- Ask the children for their thoughts, ideas and reactions to the writing project.
- As a whole class, the teacher and children together set the goals that need to be achieved if they are going to produce excellent writing products.
- Children know what to consider and to include if their writing is to be successful and meaningful. Importantly, they also know how to include it. This happens through daily writing-study and functional-grammar mini-lessons.
- They talk regularly about how things they have done in previous writing projects will help them in this one.
- Children are regularly told that they are achieving writing goals and hitting mile-stones on the road towards publication and performance.
- Through daily mini-lessons, children know how to undertake the different writing processes.
- Children are given time to choose what they want to write about within the class writing project.
- They are able to write at a pace that suits them – within a framework of loose writing deadlines.
- Children are able to use writing processes that suits them best.
If you have any ideas of your own, please add them to the comment box below.
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