Tips and tools to engage the classroom in writing activities

Poll Everywhere welcomes Gloria Kopp as the guest author of this post.

Long writing activities are generally relegated to homework, but there comes a time when every teacher needs to introduce them into the classroom. These activities come with their own distinct challenges. Listening to a teacher and answering questions is far more interactive than sitting and writing. Making this switch can be difficult for some kids.

First, the silence is intimidating, and they become easily distracted as nothing particularly captures their attention. Students who struggle to pay attention can often distract others, and a lot of the time very little written work is actually accomplished. The following tips can help improve your class’ engagement in writing, and help them to produce great written work.


student writing in notebook


1. Build vocabulary

Before your students can sit down to write anything, they need certain tools to express themselves.

A wide vocabulary is one of those tools. Make sure you have a class on synonyms, homonyms, metaphors, and similes before you ask them to write, to ensure they’re prepared. You can also set homework or computer-based tasks to improve vocabulary. Check Visuwords, a graphical dictionary, or Verbix to make sure they’re using action words properly, and have a wider verb vocabulary than ‘said’ and ‘was’.


2. Mix up your writing assignments

Students are only ever going to be mildly interested in assignments that involve writing to inform, persuade, or explain. Change the tasks you set to include creative writing, letters to fictional characters, or diary entries to make sure your students remain engaged and excited about the assignment. Story Mash is a great tool to use to get your students interested in writing fiction.


3. Make sure the tasks are culturally relevant and applicable to real life

This applies to engagement in all kinds of subjects, however it’s particularly true when it comes to writing. Students write better when they are writing about things they know, so finding topics or situations that are relevant and relatable to their real life can massively increase the quality of their work. Make sure all members of your class feel represented by the questions and task they’re doing.


“Students write better when they are writing about things they know. Find topics or situations that are relevant and relatable to their lives.”


4. Try using peer review

When your student knows that a classmate will read what they’ve written, they’ll try harder to avoid embarrassment, and also write something that they think will impress their reader. If your students want to practice giving feedback, then they can use Paper Fellows as a grammar and citation resource for ideas of what they should look for when they review their colleague’s work.


5. Get your timing right

When you set classroom writing assignments, it’s important to consider the time of day. Your students’ engagement naturally waxes and wanes over the course of the day, so it’s a good idea to pick a time when they’re totally focused.

After a warm-up activity in the morning is good, as is straight after a lunch break, as eating and drinking water are so good for their brain, as explained on Twin Word. Try not to make writing the last thing of the day, or directly before a recess, as that’s when your students will be eager to leave and thinking of getting out of the classroom, rather than concentrating on school.


student writing a quick note


7. Have less-specific requirements

As students get older, they’ll need to be familiar with tools like Cite It In and Easy Word Count to make sure they’re producing properly referenced papers of the appropriate length. Relax requirements when writing in the classroom, and make sure your students can concentrate on content, rather than small details. That way they can focus on – and engage with – their writing.

Not every student will love writing. However, they can all be engaged and productive in the classroom by following the above tips and tools.


author headshotGloria Kopp is a digital marketer and an elearning consultant from Manville city. She graduated from University of Wyoming and started a career of a business writer and an educator, now she works as a tutor at an essay company. Besides, she is a regular contributor to such websites as Engadget, Academized, Huffington Post, etc.