Last year I wrote a blog called “A Teacher’s Perspective on Writing,” and one of the tips I included for students was to write with a purpose. Finding a purpose for writing is where it all begins. It is the foundation on which you must build your work.
Sometimes, though, when writing a literary essay, finding your purpose can be difficult. It can be easier to define your purpose when you are writing a cover letter for a job application or writing an essay when you apply to college. Students will sometimes email or call me asking, “Where do I start?”
I typically point students in the direction of brainstorming first. But before students can brainstorm, they need a writing prompt, and the topic needs to be made relevant for the student. The student needs to understand the outcome of the writing assignment before attempting to begin any other step in the writing process.
Finding time to discuss writing in the early stages of an assignment is important. This can be a challenge, especially for the virtual educator, whose students may all be at varying points in the course throughout the school year. Be sure to begin a dialogue with your students either before brainstorming or shortly after.
Three ways to make writing assignments more clear-cut for your students
- Make sure that your writing assignments are clear and easy to understand. What is the outcome of the assignment?
- Is there a way students can relate this assignment to their daily lives so that they can use real life experiences and personal insight?
- Can you create prewriting activities that both engage the students and provide a clear-cut guide for writing a rough draft?
Empowering students through their writing
The personal narrative or creative writing assignment is a great way to empower students by using writing as a tool. Allowing students to write about experiences that are valuable and meaningful to them creates relevancy.
Analytical and persuasive writing can also be empowering. I tell my students, if you can back up your opinion with evidence, then your writing is justified. I have used the analogy of a writer being like a detective where they need to scour the text to find the evidence that proves their point. This practice gives more control and more freedom to the student.
Providing relevant and helpful feedback is one of the most important parts of motivating students to write, even though this does not occur during the writing process. When providing feedback, try to make sure that you have something positive to say about what the student has written and point them in the right direction. Rather than stating what is “wrong” with an essay, provide ways that the student might improve their essay. The feedback that you provide is information that the students will take with them when they begin their next writing assignment.