Good writing doesnt start with formulas and formats. Thinking, defining what the writer wants to say, planning, and exploring -- that is where it begins. Use the strategies below to help students realize they have powerful, important things to say.
Always giving them choices, sometimes theirs, sometimes yours (more than one). There are millions of ideas for persuasive pieces. Model often and repeatedly how you think of ideas. That part takes time. In science class, blurt out Oh, Id like to write about this," and explain the thinking that prompted that outburst. In literature class, pose the idea of writing an alternative ending to a story. Lucy Calkins reminds us in Raising Lifelong Learners that great ideas often come from a single moment, a snapshot. We want students not to write about the ocean but about one grain of sand."
Train students (and yourself) to think as writers. Teach the process, but remember, there isnt always time to whip out a graphic organizer or write an outline. Those tools can help students think but, if you use them, focus on the concept behind them rather than simply on how to fill in the blanks. Make a connection by using the same organizers for post-reading comprehension and writing. As students frequently practice organizing and defining a topic, they can think and compose more quickly when they must.
Teach them to use questions to organize. What comes first? What comes next? What comes last? Ask:
More specific questions help narrow the topic -- fine-tune ideas during conferences between student and teacher, or among students, with the technique. Encourage students to make informal notes as questions are posed.
The goal is to communicate how thinking can organize their writing and communicate their ideas logically and clearly. Accomplish that in your classroom by helping each student find the best way to organize his or her writing. One size doesnt fit all.