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How to Motivate Students to Write at the Elementary Level in 2022

I was so tired of hearing a collective groan from my students wshen it was time for writing. I thought there had to be simple solutions out there for how to motivate students to write.

Where I saw the struggle, frustration, and dislike for writing emerge from my students was when they were expected to write on their own in a journal or writer’s notebook. Unfortunately, this was something we worked on daily so I needed to find a solution (and quickly).

Sure, I always had 2 or 3 eager writers, but overall their writer’s notebooks were a cause of stress and aggravation… for all of us.

This blog post suggests ideas and resources for how to replace the chorus of groans with loud cheers and excitement about writing. Learn more below about how to motivate students to write!

Why Do Elementary Students Struggle with Writing?

Below are 5 potential reasons why your students struggle with writing.

1. Students Don’t Know What to Write About

My students did really well with the paragraph of the week activities and seasonal writing assessments we did, so it seemed like the problem wasn’t the process of writing. Instead, it seemed students struggled with getting started and coming up with quality topics and ideas to write about.

One thing that helped tremendously was an activity we did at the start of each new school year which had the students brainstorm a list of topics to keep in their writer’s notebook. This was a great resource for them throughout the year, served me well as part of my emergency sub plans, and reinforced the concept of writing about “small seeds” or “tiny ideas.”

2. They Feel Overwhelmed

Writing can feel very overwhelming for elementary students. One idea to consider is to practice writing daily so it becomes more routine. Another suggestion is to break down the steps of writing so students are focusing on one step of the writing process at a time. Learn more about the 6 steps of the writing process!

3. Perfectionism Gets in the Way

Some students may get stuck due to fear of making a mistake or the final product not coming out the way they want it to. One suggestion to consider is delivering a lesson on growth mindset.

4. Their Learning Difference Makes it Harder

ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia, and dysgraphia are just some examples of learning differences that make writing harder for students. Be sure to follow the accommodations and modifications in their IEPs and 504 plans to support them. Even if students do not have an IEP or 504 plan, implement differentiation strategies to support your students.

5. The Basic Skills Needed for Writing are Not Automatic Yet

If students struggle with forming their letters and that’s where all of their concentration goes, then it makes writing a paragraph extra difficult. Think about the purpose of the lesson. If it’s to brainstorm ideas, then consider having a student who struggles with the physical part of writing draw pictures or use a technology device.

5 Ways to Motivate Your Elementary Students to Write

Below are 5 ways to motivate your elementary students to write.

1. Pose Interesting Topics

Posing interesting topics makes writing a lot more fun for elementary students. Consider the time of year, what your students are interested in, and what is going on in the world around them. For example, if it’s the middle of October, consider posing some spooky topics or ones about costumes. Use their excitement about Halloween to elevate the writing experience. This is exactly what I did in my monthly writing prompts resource! Another example is if you are working on opinion writing and a student is really interested in Pokemon cards, then have them write a piece about why kids should or should not be able to trade Pokemon cards in school. Catering your topics to your group of students is a great way to get them excited about writing.

2. Offer Student Choice when Possible

Whenever you can, offer students choices. Consider offering them a list of writing prompts to choose from like I do in my monthly writing prompts resource. When students feel a sense of autonomy over what they are doing, then they are more engaged and invested.

3. Have Students Write Every Day

The more students write, the better they will get! When something is really difficult for us, we usually aren’t thrilled to do it. The best way to motivate them to write is help them improve by offering lots of opportunities to practice their writing skills. My favorite way to do this is through a monthly writing journal.

4. Follow a Solid Framework for Writing

Having a solid framework makes expectations clear and makes writing feel more routine. This helps students feel more comfortable and confident writing and will help them improve their writing skills. Learn all about the 6 step of the writing process so you can implement it in your classroom!

5. Celebrate Student Writing Often

Celebrating student writing can take many different forms. Some examples are hosting a coffee shop-themed poetry event, posting student writing on the hallway bulletin board for others to see, and inviting parents to come in to listen to student writing at a teddy bear picnic. The opportunities are endless!

The Secret to Motivating Elementary Students to Write

Back in the day, I used to have my students do journal writing, but found that many struggled with coming up a topic. Most kids would write the same genre of story in their journals (often starting with “Last night…”) over and over.  I decided to do something a wee bit more structured.

Each year, we began by making a personalized writer’s notebook (inspired by the About Me collage in the book, Judy Moody) and collected ideas in the Writer’s Idea Bank to use throughout the year when journaling. They always had the option of selecting a topic of their own, but the idea bank was a resource for those who struggled with ideas. While that solved the “I don’t know what to write about” problem, I observed many kids still really struggled with how to get started. 

Once they had that initial sentence on paper, they were off and running, but that blank page was often intimidating. That’s why why I created a the monthly writing journals. The first one I made was the October journal prompts so I could capitalize on their love of all things Halloween and the intrinsic motivation it brings. 

I was excited to introduce them to my class, but was not prepared for the positive impact they had on writing in our classroom almost immediately. By offering them prompts and a collection of thematic paper for them to write on, they magically went from dreading writing to choosing to do it during free time and indoor recess. They were seriously more enthusiastic about writing than I’ve ever seen. It was such a hit, I made sets for all other months in the year as well. 

What are the Monthly Writing Journals?

The monthly writing journals are a writing resource for elementary teachers. They are available as 10 individual months or as a year-long bundle. It includes writing activities that cover the following writing genres: Creative, informative, opinion, narrative, procedural, descriptive, review, persuasive, poetry, and letter writing.

These writing prompts are designed to provide students with regular writing practice, teach a systematic approach to writing, and build a love of writing amongst students. Use these writing resources for writing centers, morning work, fast finisher tasks, homework, sub plans activities, evidence for report cards, and samples for parent-teacher conferences.

These monthly printables will transform your young authors into excellent writers!

What do the Monthly Writing Journals Include?

The monthly journals include the following:

  • 4 cover options for each month so you can choose which one fits you and your students’ needs best
  • 6 versions of thematic writing paper for each month, so you can differentiate based on your students’ needs
  • table of contents printables for students to use to organize their many pieces of writing
  • monthly lists of creative, informative, opinion, narrative, procedural, descriptive, review, persuasive, poetry, and letter writing prompts, so your students will engage with lots of different types of writing throughout the school year
  • student checklists to track how many of each types of writing students complete over the course of the school year, which will help you ensure that they are working on all types of writing – not just their two or three favorite types
  • rubrics that help make expectations clear to students and make grading quick and easy for you
  • self-assessment activities that help you guide students through reflecting on the experiences
  • feedback forms to help you identify student strengths, set goals for each student, and develop future lessons
  • digital versions of all the resources so students can access them in school and at home
September writing promptsOctober Writing PromptsNovember writing promptsDecember writing promptsJanuary writing prompts resource
February writing promptsMarch writing promptsApril writing promptsMay writing promptsJune writing prompts

Why Do Teachers Love the Monthly Writing Prompts?

Below are reasons why elementary teachers love the monthly writing prompts.

1. They motivate students to write.

Kids love seasonal and thematic activities. They are always much more motivated by topics that interest them.Changing the journals and prompts monthly eliminates the boredom that comes with the “same old same old” and keeps their interest level high. No lie, my kids actually cheered at the start of the month when the new prompts were revealed. They would actually beg me at dismissal on the last day of each month to let them have a sneak peek at the new month’s packet. I couldn’t believe we went from a chorus of groans to hooting and hollering in a joyous way when it came to writing.

2. They improve instruction.

The monthly journals drive my instruction. While I don’t formally correct their work, I use them to assess their writing skills and look for areas where improvement is needed. This information is used to plan whole-class minilessons at the start of writer’s workshop and also allows me to form small groups for guided instruction on specific skills. 

The journals provide lots of content to discuss during 1:1 writing conferences with each individual student. During our conferences, we review their writing samples, talk about their previous goals, look for examples of how they’ve applied the skills we’ve been working on and set new goals. Having these journals has allowed them to really see how much they are improving and motivates them to do even more.

3. Student progress is documented.

The monthly journals are another easy, yet an absolutely wonderful way to show how much gain a child has made as a writer throughout the course of the school year. They are perfect for sharing with families during parent-teacher conferences and are always a hit during our spring open house.

4. Kids regularly practice all genres.

Using this resource makes it very easy to get your students to regularly practice different types of writing. Each monthly packet includes creative writing story starters, narrative writing prompts, opinion and persuasive prompts, and even a collection of timely informational writing topics they can research and write about.

5. Early finishers know what to do.

The monthly writing journals also helped end the problem of early finishers. No longer did my students ask, “I’m done. What should I do now?” No longer did I need to prepare extra work for students who finished their other assignments quickly. They knew that when their work was complete they had two choices: read a book or write in their monthly journals.

6. Writing sub plans is super easy.

Planning for a substitute teacher suddenly became a whole lot easier. I never needed to find, prep, and write detailed instructions for a guest teacher to do in my absence anymore. Let’s face it, that never goes well anyway. With these journals as part of our routine, my sub plans simply include extended journal writing. Easy for me. Easy for the sub. Valuable for the kids.

How to Implement the Monthly Writing Prompts

This monthly writing prompt resource is so quick and easy to prepare for student use. In fact, the only prep needed makes a great job for parent volunteers or classroom aides because it is simple. You’ll just need to select and print which pages you would like to use with your students. Then you can have a volunteer make stapled packets for each student for each month. Each packet should have a monthly cover, the pages with the writing prompts, and multiple copies of the thematic writing stationary.

At the start of each month, you can do a big reveal of what the new monthly writing prompts are. Simply show off the cover of the new month’s writing journal and then read aloud some or all of the writing prompts.

Student can keep the current month’s packet at their seats so they are accessible at any time. This makes it a great fast finisher task.

3 Other Writing Resources Elementary Teachers Need

Below are 4 writing resources all elementary teachers need.

1. Paragraph of the Week

One of the parts of my writing instruction that was going really well at the time was when I implemented Paragraph of the Week. My students routinely wrote with enthusiasm when they were working on Paragraph of the Week activities. These activities follow a consistent structure, so students quickly learn what is expected of them and how to complete the tasks.

I loved using paragraph of the week because I was able to prep a whole year’s worth of writing activities at the beginning of the school year that I offered students meaningful writing practice. As I mentioned, they follow a consistent structure. This solid framework improves writing skills tremendously and makes it easier for parents to assist with it when it’s assigned for homework.

2. Seasonal Writing Assessments

In my classroom, I used 4 seasonal writing assessments (fall, winter, spring and summer) that became their seasonal writing portfolio. It documents their writing progress, looks great displayed on our bulletin board throughout the year, and ends up being one of the projects that parents save forever and ever. Learn more about these seasonal writing assessments!

Fall writing assessmentwinter writing assessment
Spring writing assessmentSummer writing assessment

3. Seasonal Writing Activities

Seasonal writing activities are a great way to motivate students to write. Check out these January writing activities, February activities, and March activities for inspiration!

In closing, we hope you found this post about how to motivate students to write helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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