Sometimes, when you assign students a writing task, they immediately balk. For students, writing assignments can be overwhelming – there are so many components for them to keep track of that they often don’t even know how to start. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Technology makes it easier than ever for students to work through the writing process and to know what they need to do and how to stay organized along the way.
Here are some tips for supporting students through the writing process:
Start Out On The “Write” Foot
Many students need support before you even hand out a writing assignment. You need to set the groundwork.
To make sure students know what to do with a writing assignment, you can frontload the assignment with instruction on how to dissect a task and get started with writing.
You might want to start by showing your students the following video, “Breaking Down an Argumentative Writing Task,” from the EasyBib vault. It gives students prewriting strategies like identifying audience, brainstorming, and starting with a hypothesis.
After students complete the lesson, you can use the analytics to quickly see who needs more help and who is ready to start writing!
Tip: Even if you’ve already completed a number of writing projects in your class, it’s always good to review best practices with your students.
Set the Assignment
As students build out their skills, they can start applying what they’ve learned about the writing process to a writing assignment.
Students should be writing for many different purposes and at different times of the year. But, if you need some inspiration for authentic writing tasks, here are a few assignments you can start with:
Get Informed! Presidential Candidate Profiles
This year, we will elect a new president. During election season, there is a lot of information flying around about each candidate. It can be hard to know what’s true, what’s being exaggerated, and what is a flat out lie. To help your classmates stay informed, you will write a well-researched profile of one presidential candidate and his or views.
For your profile, you will need to pick one candidate, provide some biographic information and explain the candidate’s views on taxes, education, and foreign policy.
Your profile should be supported by at least three credible sources.
Letter to the editor: What’s your cause?
Identify a community issue that is important to you. This could be a law you disagree with, a law that you think should be established, a neighborhood park that needs attention, an issue in schools – anything that affects the members of your community.
Begin gathering sources from databases and websites that help you learn more about the cause you chose. Make sure your are using relevant, authoritative sources.
Write a letter to the editor explaining what the issue is and what steps community members should take to address the issue. Use the examples you studied from your local “Opinions” section to help you structure your writing.
Should America Have a Holiday Dedicated to Christopher Columbus?
Your task is to write an Argumentative Essay with your position clearly defined as to why or why not America should have a holiday dedicated to Christopher Columbus.
Your position should be clearly stated and should have evidence to support your position.
Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- Indigenous Peoples Day
- How Columbus Day Fell Victim to Its Own Success
- Columbus Controversy
- Columbus’ Journals
Give Students the Tools They Need
Now that you’ve set the assignment, you need to give students the tools they need to be able to write their papers. What you don’t want is to get a paper that is one long stream-of-consciousness essay, or only cites Wikipedia articles as evidence.
So, how can you help them?
Provide Feedback at Every Step
Brief conferences or “check-ins” throughout the writing process helps students stay on track. Ask questions while reading writing pieces with students, help them reflect, discuss ways to improve it, and guide them to making effective changes and edits.
Having difficulty finding time to check in with every single one of your students? Peer-editing is a great way for students to share their work with classmates. Model what peer-editing should look like and include a checklist to help students stay focused and on-task while conferencing with their peers.
We love the examples of how to give effective feedback in this Edutopia article by Marianne Stenger.
Share Examples of Exemplary Work
Of course we do not want our students to copy others’ work, but sharing a few high-quality examples provides students with good “role-models” to follow. Notice that students are having difficulty with transitions? Show them a writing piece where the transitions are smooth and well-organized. Are students relying too much on Wikipedia? Showcase an example of a writing piece that pulls in information from many different types of authoritative sources. Showcasing high-quality examples, and having a discussion on what makes particular pieces stellar, will make students conscious of what their work should include.
Show that Rubrics Rock!
Create a rubric to help keep students on-track with their writing. Make it simple enough for students to understand and encourage them to use it – not only at the end of their assignment, but while writing it too. Add check off boxes next to the rubric components to help them self-assess their work and address areas that should be revised.