The Write Stuff
Teach your students the proper writing skills through these fun activities.
No matter what your age, good communication skills play a vital role in keeping you connected to the world. Teaching children proper writing skills early on can help establish a good foundation and allow them to hone their abilities as they grow older. Like any other subject, writing can be taught formally and technically. Sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, and grammatical rules are all necessary components when teaching English. The challenge for teachers is finding activities that don’t just instruct their students, but also allow them to practice the rules of proper writing while helping them grow creatively as young writers.
Set Your Standards
Before you can assess your students’ performance and growth, it’s important to establish a set of writing criteria to guide them as they write. “Writing is assessed through a set of criteria shared with students prior to writing. These are developed by the teacher according to the genre of writing or even the level of writing that a class is able to do,” says Ina de Vera, a current primary years teacher with 13 years of experience as a pre-kinder to grade 5 teacher. It is a good idea to allow students to participate in creating their own writing goals because it enables them to assess their own work, as well as that of their peers. Having a defined set of criteria makes it easier for both teachers and students to create a common vision as to what “good” writing should be.
You may have to guide students in creating their own writing goals. Start with an example that can be directly related to your lesson of, for example, subject-verb agreement, “Always make sure the subjects and verbs agree.” Then you can ask them for other rules that they feel should be present in the work they are about to write such as, “Start with an introduction and end with a conclusion,” or “Make sure each statement has examples.” You can be as specific as you want to be so as to reinforce a lesson.
Ready, Set, Think!
Bobbie Bautista-Ramirez, grade 5 class adviser and MAGIS English teacher at Ateneo Grade School, explains that writing criteria and writing goals are customized “according to specific areas of strength and/or weakness of the students, and according to what is being graded—whether it be sentences, composition, etc.”There are no hard and fast rules to coming up with different criteria in your classroom, although following a general framework can provide a basic backbone that can be worked into your syllabus. Ina de Vera offers an example you can use as a guide. Of course you must adjust these according to the level of your students:
- Ideas How effectively does your student choose a topic, develop an idea, collect information, share insight, and make connections?
- Voice How clear is the author’s purpose? How engaging is the piece? Does the author take the audience into consideration?
- Organization Are the introduction and conclusion connected? Does the piece follow a logical sequence? Does it follow a good pace?
- Sentence Fluency Are the sentences written correctly? Is the piece easy to read?
- Word Choice Are the words properly used? For more advanced writers: Does the author show, and not tell, the story? Is creative, figurative language effectively used?
- Conventions Are the spelling and grammar accurate?
Strategies to Try
Creativity plays a large role in coming up with ways to incorporate language lessons into your students’ activities. Use the essentials as a springboard for fun and interesting games—this can help you intersperse technical topics with activities that allow children to absorb and learn new ideas more easily.
- Poster Gallery
Aim: Introduce your students to the idea of coming up with their own writing criteria and goals and allow them to form their own expectations as to what constitutes a good piece of written work.
- Group students into threes or fours.
- Discuss in class the different traits you would like to use in assessing their pieces.
- Ask them to brainstorm what they’d like to see whenever they read a piece. Help them pick out examples of stories or books they’ve encountered, which have particular qualities that resonated with them.
- Have the members of each group collaborate in making a poster that displays all their expectations.
- Create a poster gallery so that students can examine each others’ works and discuss the criteria by which the entire class’s written works can then be assessed.
- Leave the posters up so that throughout the school year, students can look back on these criteria, whenever they feel lacking in inspiration or want to double check their own work against the standards they set at the beginning of the activity.
- Mind Map Graffiti
Aim: Train students to spin a major theme into a piece of writing through word associations and mind mapping. Give them a chance to see how one major theme can branch off into many ideas that they can use to enhance their own writing.
- Cover one classroom wall or bulletin board with a blank sheet of Manila paper that everyone can scrawl on.
- Give students a rundown of very general topics that they can start with—the class may vote on a particular subject, such as friendship, love, family, etc.
- Write the chosen topic in big, bold letters in the middle of the graffiti wall and encircle it.
- Anybody can come up and connect the topic word to another word. Get the ball rolling by giving them one or two examples in the beginning. For example, friendship can spin off to going out with friends, or eating lunch together at the canteen.
- Get students to take turns writing their own ideas—making their written words as creative as they can so that the mind map becomes just like a wall of graffiti.
- When the wall is done, explain to students that a major theme can branch out into any of the associations they’ve made. A written exercise can help reinforce the activity.
QUICK TO DOS
These short and simple activities can help reinforce writing skills without taking too much time.
- Comic book (teaches Logical progression). Have kids lay out a familiar story using thumbnails and jumble them up to create an interesting spin to a tale.
- Dress Up (teaches Voice). Have kids pick out a popular character from a book and write a short speech in that person’s voice.
- How To (teaches Sequencing). Get kids to write all the rules for how to make a peanut butter sandwich, for example, and have them act it out but miss a step—this can make for a very funny skit!
While fun and games can make any class interesting, the rudiments of teaching proper writing skills, such as reading, spelling, punctuation, grammar rules and listening, must never be forgotten.