Are You Teaching Your Kids to Hate Writing?

24 Apr

In this blog, I spend a lot of time talking about how I try to teach my students to love writing. Just as important, though, is NOT teaching your students to hate writing–something that many teachers, myself included, do accidentally all the time.

Here are three surefire ways to teach your students to hate writing (and some ideas for how to avoid them):

1. Use writing as a punishment. We are all familiar with the image of an Anne-of-Green-Gables-type kid being forced to write “I will not lose my temper” a hundred times on a blackboard. We laugh at the idea, but modern teachers still pull this kind of stunt all the time. Have you ever heard (or said), “If y’all don’t settle down, I’m giving you twice as much homework tonight!” or “Since you all were horrible to the substitute teacher, you all have to write a five-page apology letter to her.”

But here’s my question: Has giving extra writing assignments as punishment ever made a disruptive child sit down, cock their head thoughtfully, and say, “Why golly! You’re so right, teacher! I really should love learning more than I do. I’ll be sure to work hard and care deeply about the quality of my academic papers from here on out”? Classroom rules and consequences are an important part of many well-managed classrooms, but there are plenty of useful consequences that are non-academic, such as lunch detentions or phone calls home, and using these can help your student separate their behavioral consequences from their interest in their schoolwork.

2. Don’t give any feedback. Students thrive on feedback; they love to know what they are doing well and what they need more help with. Without timely, meaningful feedback, writing assignments can feel like writing to a pen pal who never writes you back–draining and pointless.

3. Don’t let your students do creative writing projects. It can be hard to save time for creative projects when we are faced with countless testing requirements, but it is more important now than ever. Writing poetry, stories, and plays inspires students to care about writing (and it also teaches them important skills, as well.) Consider setting aside one day each week for creative projects, or offering creative responses as a more fun alternative to literary essays or multiple choice tests.

What do you do to keep your students excited about writing? Let me know in the comments section!

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12 Responses to “Are You Teaching Your Kids to Hate Writing?”

  1. Sandra Madeira April 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Here’s the link… http://wp.me/p1x6Ui-1Kq
    Sandra

  2. Climbing Tree April 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    I encouraged kids in my Deep class to not censor themselves. Maybe not in the school notebooks, but in their journals at home. As far as in-class, I haven’t done this yet, but I want to have kids write down answers to the question: Why do I hate writing? If they say it’s hard, then I can just say back, “But you just wrote something. And it was supposedly something you “hate” to do and that’s fine. Writing allows you to talk about what you hate, as well as what you love, like, dislike, enjoy, or feel so-so about.”

    • thatwritinglady April 25, 2012 at 9:42 am #

      Taking away censorship is a really smart way to get kids excited about writing! (I can tell some pretty funny stories about that one, too…) Another fun thing is to trick them into writing by asking them to write things like notes to their friends, or Twitter updates–then, when they’re done, you can point out that they clearly do actually like writing–they just didn’t know it.

  3. Andrew J. Sedlak April 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    I am currently writing a picture book with my pupil. We meet twice a week and I allow a flexible schedule on how many pages she produces. Sometimes she’s interested and sometimes we need to do something radically different so she can miss writing just a little bit.

    • thatwritinglady April 25, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      That sounds great! Sometimes shaking things up is a really helpful tactic. I’d love to read the book that she writes…

  4. jockmackenzie April 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    I have had success with a number of things:
    1. Whenever possible, I write while my kids write. I need quiet when I am writing and this seems to help. When any distractions keep me from my task, I underscore the importance of what I’m doing. It adds credence to the task.
    2. I begin each year by asking my students to begin the class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with Journal Writing. The frequency helps. The second part that helps is giving them starters (see my blog). The third suggestion is always “Your Choice.”
    3. Making writing real. When I can, I get student writing “out there.” When we write letters, we send them. When we write exposition, we have shared it with younger students. Once we wrote “how to” paragraphs targeted at kindergarten kids. Our second step was to re-write the paragraphs into point form instructions e.g. how to wrap a present, how to get dressed for a winter recess, how to tie shoes. Other writing (or excerpts) is put in the school newsletter.

    for more, go to Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. at http://www.jockmackenzie.wordpress.com

    Thanks for sharing, Catherine

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