Improve Student Writing

Teaching methods for student writing evolve. On a large scale, educators teach students to write for college and to use proper tone in emails. We no longer teach the different types of snail mail letters.

On a smaller scale, (hopefully) each teacher’s ideas about teaching writing evolve. I personally know that to improve student writing, my methods have evolved. Here are five quick ways that I’ve found success in helping students with their writing.

  1. Look at each sentence.
    Ask students to take revision one sentence at a time. This helps in two ways. One, students become less overwhelmed. Two, students can see improvement. Rather than tackling an entire paragraph (which they’ll need to do later with flow/ voice), students can see success quickly with sentences. Look:There are many reasons people text and drive.Switch the sentence around with students – explain approaches for fixing sentences. “There are” is a weak construct, and the student writer misses the opportunity to add voice. With a few small changes, improve the sentence:People text and drive for a variety of reasons – none of them acceptable. Show students that with small changes and switches, their writing will vastly improve.
  2. Eliminate linking verbs.
    Improve student writing quickly by teaching to replace linking verbs with action verbs. The most effective method? Hand all students a highlighter and ask them to find linking verbs in their papers. Of course, some linking verbs should stay. Students should replace the majority though.Eliminating linking verbs will improve student writing. If you need a detailed plan with handouts, I have that writing lesson.
  3. Find (and replace) overused words.
    Many teachers hang an “overused words” poster, and many students have memorized every word on the list. Still. Students put goodthings, and stuff in their papers.As above, I distribute highlighters. I ask students to find tired words in their papers – or in a peers’ papers. Then we brainstorm ways to change those words.Need a go-to lesson for replacing overused words? I have that lesson plan too.
    Five quick ways to help students improve their own writing - by helping them take ownership of their own writing.
  4. Compile introductions and conclusions.
    This is easy to complete anonymously, which makes students more comfortable when they work. Copy and paste every paper’s introduction (or conclusion) into Power Point (or whatever program). Discuss – in a spirit of cooperative learning, of partnerships – strengths and weaknesses. This shows students their areas where they should continue on that track and areas where they should focus.After reading through a few, you might have a list of common errors. That might branch into a new lesson.
  5. Model writing for students.
    I’ve blogged before about writing papers with my students. For some reason, students think adults and professional writers write and TA-DA! No edits required!Once students realize that adults follow the writing process too and spend time editing and revising, they are more willing to embrace each step. Students see the struggles and the outcomes of an adult writing and realize that writing isn’t perfect the first time.For instance, I almost always brainstorm with students. I show them how I discard some ideas and organize others. If I believe I have a wonderful idea and I can’t use it – I share my disappointment with them. I relate to them that each step of the writing process brings challenges.Over time, these five methods have become my go-to ways to improve student writing. I’ve used others, with these consistently being the most effective.As always, I’d appreciate comments for what writing methods help your students.

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