Do you want to improve student writing? Teachers in all subject areas know the struggle of reading incoherent student responses. No matter their subject area or grade level, all teachers can use these strategies. Help your students learn to write great responses on assignments and tests!
There are 6 generally recognized traits for strong writing: ideas, organization, word choice, sentence structure, conventions, and voice. In this blog post, you can read some ideas for cultivating each trait.
The first way to improve student writing is to help them get a grasp on their ideas. Your students should be able to establish a point of view and provide strong evidence.
How can you teach kids to write the perfect topic sentence and provide supporting details?
My favorite way to teach kids to provide text evidence is the RACE Writing Strategy. Read about how it transformed my classroom here!
Another trait of strong writing is organization. Paragraphs and essays should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Graphic organizers can provide the structure students are lacking. Check out this digital graphic organizer for a 5-paragraph argumentative essay.
The RACE Strategy is a great way to start when your students are struggling with the structure of a paragraph.
Another fun idea is to try scrambled paragraphs. This activity provides the scaffold of already written sentences. Students simply need to rearrange the sentences into a logical order. Scrambled paragraphs are a great way to help decrease the cognitive load for some of your struggling writers.
Next, strong word choice is crucial for good writing. Students should be able to use specific vocabulary in their writing. They should also be able to incorporate figurative language.
Teaching vocabulary is a continual process. The best way to improve vocabulary, in my experience, is to encourage students to read as much as possible. Beyond that, explicit instruction should be used throughout the year for Tier 2 and 3 words.
For figurative language, I like to practice mastery with this fun figurative language sort.
Another trait of good writing is sentence structure. When students vary their sentences between long and short–simple and complex–their writing seems a lot more natural and fluent.
Teach the sentence types explicitly, and spend time practicing writing each type. Use an “I do, we do, you do” approach to teaching this sometimes tricky skill.
One idea is to model sentence types and embed sentence structure requirements into our writing assignments. In an essay, for example, require students to use and label the sentence types correctly
(simple, complex, compound, and compound-complex).
Additionally, I have a fun color by number activity for practicing the different sentence types here.
The next way to improve student writing is to make sure it adheres to conventions. This is also known as grammar. Students should be able to write complete sentences, use correct subject-verb agreement, and follow punctuation rules.
I have several grammar resources available here.
Finally, the hardest trait to teach is a strong voice. I think teaching model texts from popular YA authors is a great way to start. Reading strong examples of voice vs. weak examples and comparing them.
Also, I found this blog post helpful as an introduction.
Get a free rubric for these writing traits here. When you make it clear what you’re looking for in a written response, it is easier for kids to meet your expectations. That’s why I support using rubrics for writing as much as possible!
What are your best tips for improving student writing? Let me know in the comments!
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