Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.
Every Language Arts classroom should have specific writing standards. However, writing is a universal skill that needs to be addressed in every classroom. Unfortunately, no matter the subject, most of the time students dread receiving a writing assignment. So how can you make writing a fun and interactive activity in your classroom? This lesson details some ideas to achieve just that. Remember, even if you don't teach Language Arts, you can take these ideas and adapt them to fit your content area.
Let's first look at some writing activities that are completed individually. For instance, daily or weekly creative journals can be intriguing writing activities. A journal is any type of periodic record of one's personal thoughts and opinions. Journals differ from diaries because journals are usually meant to be read by others. The key here is to supply a fun or interesting prompt. Most students need some sort of direction or they will give little effort. To avoid this, come up with prompts that call for creative thinking. Look at the following example:
- You are alone working in a pet shop. All of a sudden 300 mice get loose. What do you do?
This is not your average journal entry. It does not pertain to any one subject in particular, but you can relate it to any type of critical thinking and problem solving. Students will love these types of prompts because it brings some humor to writing. In addition, everyone will want to share their fun ideas for solving the problem.
Other individual writing activities include personal responses to literature, which involve having the students place themselves into the story. For example, in the play Romeo and Juliet, ask the students to write a paragraph or two explaining what they would do in Juliet's place. Would they run away with Romeo? Would they reject him and choose to be loyal to family? Would they kill themselves upon waking to find Romeo dead? Include some of these questions as guiding questions and be sure to push your students to explain all aspects of their opinion. Personal responses could also be used in history or science class, as you often read about real life events or stories. The more students can personally relate to stories, either fiction or nonfiction, the more they will understand and value it.
A final individual writing activity is the personal reflection, which calls for the student to reflect on his own work. For instance, imagine you are a science teacher and your students have been working on a science fair project for the past month. At the end, require your students to write a paragraph or two answering the following questions:
- What did you do well on your project? Explain.
- What did not work out for you? Why do you think it didn't work?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your project? Why?
- What would you do differently if you were to do the same project again? Why?
Completing a personal reflection will be interesting for your students because they need to think and analyze themselves. Also, it will encourage your students to learn from their mistakes so they can make better choices in the future.
In addition to fun individual writing activities, try group writings to bring some excitement to the process. For example, assign a specific topic or genre and do a pass the story game. Each student starts with a sheet of paper and has one minute to write the beginning of the story. When the timer sounds, even if they are in mid-sentence, they must stop writing and pass their paper to the next student. Now they have two minutes to read the new beginning in front of them and continue writing that story. Continue the writing activity for however many rounds you need to give each student an opportunity to write, , increasing the time in each round. In the final round, the student must end the story. Then each student should get their original story back to see how it turned out. Students love to see how others changed the story and you can even post the best examples around the room.
A second group writing activity could be to create a fill in the blank story. This is a great activity not only for writing, but as a review of parts of speech. Split your class into groups. Each group must write a short story with blanks for missing words. On a separate list, the group numbers the blanks and names which part of speech goes in each blank. Then groups switch lists and assign words to fill the blanks, without reading the story first. Then the words are filled into the story, usually with hilarious results. Challenge your students to come up with the funniest or most creative words and reward the best stories.
Lastly, students can work together to write group poetry, usually after or during a unit on the characteristics of poetry and figurative language. A group poem gives the students a chance to try different techniques of poetry while learning from peers at the same time. Have students create a poem as a performance piece, where each student will have lines to recite. You can give a specific topic for the poem or require certain figurative language. On the other hand, you can encourage cooperation and inclusion by allowing the group to make those types of choices. Most students love to have the opportunity to work with their peers in a creative capacity.
To review, there are many ways in which you can use writing in the classroom as an engaging individual or group endeavor. Some individual writing activities include creative journals that push students to use critical thinking to problem solve, personal responses that require students to relate to literature or other reading, and personal reflections that call for analysis of their own work.
Several group writing activities include pass the story, where students each write the same story for a few minutes before passing it to their neighbor; fill in the blank stories, where students practice using different parts of speech; and group poetry, where students use certain figurative language in order to write a poem to be recited by multiple people.
Use these ideas as a foundation for making writing an important aspect of your classroom.
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