Professor of Literacy, Teresa Cremin, is working on a new research project to develop teachers’ skills as writers, in order to help develop the confidence and motivation of students. Here she shares seven ways that teachers can get their students into writing:
1. Clear time and space, and ‘just write’
Help children to turn off their inner editor by using freewriting. This can be a really liberating way to explore writing. ‘Just Write’ has been shown to help children produce work that is extraordinarily fresh and powerful, because they lose inhibitions and self-consciousness.
One Year 8 pupil taking part in our research project said “I liked the part where we just kept writing and didn’t stop, because it really let my ideas flow.
2. Make writing fun by giving them choice
Letting the students choose the content, form and purpose of their writing makes it a more engaging and liberating activity, which they are more likely to see to be fun. A bit of creative freedom gives students a more positive approach to writing and can really improve their efforts as their creation is on their terms.
Paying attention to their choices can help you find out more about your students’ interests and passions, perceptions and values.
3. Use rich literature and drama to inspire
Good writers read widely and teachers will also want to capitalise on potent texts to engage and inspire young writers. Taking interactive approaches to text development and improvement can increase students’ engagement, as can drama which offers opportunities to investigate and inhabit fiction
4. Make it personal
It’s well known by authors that powerful storytelling and writing draws on life experience. Writing from the heart, and exploring memories and identities, can be very powerful and help students to explore bigger issues and gain confidence. Encourage your students to write about their experiences and emotions can lead to writing which has voice and verve.
5. Write with them
Not many teachers participate as writers at school – time is tight and it could reduce space for explicit teaching and instruction. But writing alongside your students can help you to teach from a writerly perspective, sharing the craft, the process and helping you to talk about your own experiences as a writer. It will also help you nurture your writing identity and develop more awareness of your students as writers. Sharing that experience will also show your students that writing is difficult, challenging and not prescriptive; and it will better position you to support their development as young writers.
6. Build a community
Creating a writing community in school, whether that’s in the classroom or beyond can give more opportunities to pupils to share and discuss ideas. They can work on writing together, perhaps following through to publishing a class anthology of short stories or poetry.
7. Write for pleasure
Making your classroom environment collaborative and relaxed can help foster the confidence of young writers, giving them more autonomy over their work. Introduce personal notebooks for writing which are not assessed, purely for creative work.
You could consider creating writing nooks in the classroom or library with cushions, or maybe write outside. Opportunities to write ‘off timetable’ in informal settings can make writing more enjoyable, especially if free choice of content, form and purpose is involved..
Professor Cremin is part of a research project called The Craft of Writing which explores how teachers working with professional writers at a residential course and in CPD might change their understanding of being a writer and how they teach writing. Find out more on the project website.
Find out more
Take the free course Start Writing Fiction
Study creative writing with The Open University
Read Professor Cremin’s article about teachers as writers
Visit the Teachers as Writers blog for resources and expert opinion on the topic