9 Literacy Strategies for Writing

Help your students learn to love writing

I’m going to shock you here. Students learn to write by writing! The more they write, the better they become. The more students are exposed to different styles and ways to write, the better the quality they produce.

But how do you get them to start? What strategies can you use to ensure they keep developing and building their writing skills? What about the reluctant writer? Or the writer too afraid to make a mistake? We have compiled 9 literacy strategies for writing from beginners to experts for your next writing lesson.

Technology and The Future

Many teachers believe that writing for students is becoming harder and harder as we move further towards the use of technology. They complain that students no longer know how to write. The art of penmanship is slowly being lost as we turn to devices for communicating. What will be the outcome in the future as we build automation and voice control into our daily lives? Why write when you have voice control and a program that writes it for you? The future is coming, but until we reach this point, we need to help students develop their ability to write effectively. These literacy strategies do not entirely rely on pen and paper, they can be completed by any means necessary. The biggest focus for any writing activity is helping students get their ideas “on the page”, whatever form that page may take.

 

The below strategies are not definitive, or even in any order (except number 1). They are also not hard and fast rules. Be flexible with your students and adapt these strategies to suit their age. Some students will struggle with using pen and paper but may be more fluent when typing. Others may prefer verbally recording their ideas and then transferring them onto paper. Every student is different and where possible we should cater to their needs.

Writing Strategy 1. Organisation

Being organised limits the excuses from students

This literacy strategy is the simplest. Be organised. Planning ensures students know when they will be writing that day. It isn’t always the best idea to “surprise” students with a writing task. Make sure students have access to writing tools and equipment. This can be whiteboard desks, laptops, iPads with keyboards, or pens/pencils and paper. Students also need space. Whether they use their own desks, or you have a certain area in your room designated for writing, a clutter free flat surface will limit distractions. Even High School students will procrastinate and suddenly complain about something when they actually have to start writing. Once they have everything in place, reluctant writers will have less excuses to start (you will just have to be mindful of the requests to use the bathroom!!).

Writing Strategy 2. Shared Writing

This writing strategy is all about, you guessed it, sharing. In early years, the teacher can write on the board at the front of the room. This enables the teacher to reinforce the key conventions of writing like grammar, print direction, capitalisation, and punctuation. In senior classes, students can share the writing processes together in small groups, with each one having an input.

As a class, negotiate words or topics that must be included. Initially, the teacher should scribe as students add the content, freeing up their focus for the composing process without needing to transcribe thoughts.

After drafting the text, students should read, and reread the composition and then edit for clarity, completeness, and correctness.

A modified version is the “Chinese Whisper” where each student adds the next sentence to the story. This can be played either verbally, or written on paper that is passed around the room. Students can then use the Chinese Whisper as a starting point to their own version of the story.

Shared writing can be used for a variety of textual forms, such as class rules, poems, a newsletter to the parents, creative writing or group story, or a daily message.

This Humpty Dumpty story over 5 lessons is an example of sharing the process.

This strategy can be fun for students who lack the confidence to write entire pieces.

Writing Strategy 3. Making a List

Whether you are teaching the early years and using Fry’s Sight Words or more advanced junior classes and need some Compound Word ideas, a list of words or phrases that might be used when writing is a great way to prompt the students. This literacy strategy requires the students and teacher to devise the relevant list, whether thematic, seasonal, holiday, or content/unit specific. These words should be on display for a week, or a month, to enable students to practice them as often as possible.

Senior students should be directed to use the words throughout their essays or report writing so they cover all concepts and themes. For English, students could devise quotes, related pieces, themes, ideas, and/or characters. In History it could refer to relevant dates, events, quotes, and/or historians. REMEMBER to remove these posters before any in class assessment!

Use sight words to help students write sentences and storiesAn easy way to build a writing list

Writing Strategy 4. A Story From Start to Finish

Nearly every beginner writer starts with “One day” and ends with “then I woke up”. This literacy strategy reminds students that stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. They are often focused on either just “completing the story” or too busy explaining everything that went on before the “punchline” or climax. They just want to get to the “good bits”.

By reading a book aloud, the teacher can discuss the parts of the story. It is also a chance to discuss joining words or words that moved the story along.

Draw three squares on paper or the board and label them Beginning, Middle, End. As the students retell the story while focusing on what happened in the beginning, middle, and the end, write their responses in the appropriate boxes.

Ask students to plan their own story using the three boxes. If they have very little in a box, encourage them to add a sentence or two. The Narrative Writing - Dragons and Fairy Tales by OceanView Resources models this literacy strategy for writing in a clear and concise resource. Narrative Writing Sizzling Starts is an excellent way for students to improve their story starters.

A resource for organising the structure of writingHands on activity for story writing

Writing Strategy 5. Modelling

For some teachers, this simple literacy strategy for writing may be a little overwhelming, but with some planning it is quite effective. The teacher demonstrates the act of writing by thinking aloud as they compose the text in front of the students. This allows them to hear the thinking that accompanies the writing process, such as the topic, how to begin, and the type of vocabulary or word choices.

The type of text used for this example can range from a party invitation to a short letter to a story. It is also an opportunity to establish the correct use of grammar, capitalisation, punctuation, and spelling.

Students should then be given the opportunity to compose another text using the strategy modeled. The Plan and Write Story Packs will assist students understanding of writing.

Offering a variety of text types is essential for writing

Writing Strategy 6. Change the Type

The more you are exposed to, the more you want to know. Students need to be exposed to a variety of text types to improve their writing, as well as find new ways to present their voice. Students should practice Letter Writing, Crime Stories, Leaflets or simply Writing to Instruct. When designing a lesson around this literacy strategy, always provide an easily accessible text that can be read aloud to the students and discussed. Comparing one text type to another is also a solid strategy for students to understand the changes in nuance and word usage.

Writing a LetterWriting a Crime StoryWriting a Leaflet

Writing Strategy 7. Peer Conferencing

Some students are hesitant to ask questions in front of the class. Peer conferencing, well known in all aspects of teaching and education, is extremely useful with writing. Students can be in groups or pairs and read their text. The rest of the group/partner provide “warm” and “cool” feedback. Warm feedback can be viewed as a positive comment. Usually, this comment needs to be more than “I like it” or “it was good”. The more difficult aspect of this literacy strategy for writing is teaching students how to offer constructive feedback. Cool feedback is more critical without saying negative comments. For example, “some more descriptive words would make the story interesting” or “could you use something else besides ‘and then’?”.

This strategy can work well with senior students if they understand the purpose and feel comfortable enough to have their work read by others.

Writing Strategy 8. Cut. Paste. Write.

This literacy strategy does require some pre planning. Students are provided with a story and templates. The story can be jumbled and students need to place the images in correct chronological order, or they may cut the story up and alter how the story goes. The teacher can also remove the beginning, middle or end of the story and have the students “fill in the blanks” with their own version.

Guinea Pig Education has almost an entire store dedicated to this writing strategy. The resources cover a variety of cut, past and write, narrative writing structures, and more.

Breaking a story into sections

Writing Strategy 9. Quick Writes

This literacy strategy focuses on building fluency, voice, confidence, and providing practice at writing spontaneously. Quick Writes are an excellent way to start the day or to use as a 5 minute filler. The teacher will provide a prompt like the ones suggested in the Writing Prompt Ideas and give the students a short period of time to write as much as they can on the topic. Students are able to choose the text type - such as a poem, story, report, newspaper article, journal entry etc. The teacher also has the opportunity to direct the students to use a particular style of writing.

Offer students a variety of writing prompts

 

Looking for some extra resources to help your students? Search The Wheel for “Writing” activities and you are sure to find something for your next lesson.

 

What program does your school use to help student writing?

Did you read our 9 Literacy Strategies for reading? Click here to find the best ways to help your students gain fluency and comprehension skills.

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