8 Truths About Teaching Writing to Middle Schoolers
When it comes to middle school authors, there is something extraordinary about them.
The tension that exists between childhood and adulthood, as well as their ability to articulate this strain, could be the cause. Perhaps it is the fact that they have fully intact imaginations and a natural need to express themselves creatively. No matter what it is, kids are capable of surprising us and each other if we educate them properly.
What I’ve discovered to be true about teaching writing to middle school students is that it is critical to both coach them on the rules of English writing and give them the freedom to be themselves.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
1. Choice is important, but kids require assistance in making their selection: When students are given the opportunity to pursue their own interests and curiosities, they are more likely to produce writing that is honest and appealing. When left to their own devices, pupils, on the other hand, may begin writing on themes that do not lead anywhere.
Before beginning to write, students should brainstorm and have the opportunity to discuss their ideas with you—as well as with their peers, if feasible. Their decision on which idea will result in the most interesting writing will be dependent on your assistance. Your advice is quite beneficial.
2. Clichés are excellent tools for teaching creative expression to middle school students, who frequently employ them in the mistaken notion that doing so will make their writing better. When we define clichés for them and explain why it is preferable to describe known things in new and unique ways, students begin to take more risks in their writing and become more confident.
A colleague suggested that I make a cliché graveyard for my classroom, which would consist of a poster cut into the style of a gravestone, to which we would add clichés as we came across them. This makes the process of digging for clichés more enjoyable, and with each cliché we bury, students come up with new and imaginative descriptions. Theirs are consistently superior.
3: Use of simple rubrics makes a big difference: Rubrics help kids understand what you’re looking for in their writing, and middle schoolers pay the most attention when the rubric contains the least amount of text feasible.
On the left-hand side of the rubric, I list vertically the five to ten aspects (title, lead, thesis, etc.) that I evaluate, and horizontally at the top, I include four easy categories: AWESOME, Pretty good!, OK…, and a sobbing emoji. More text might be overwhelming for students, and it can also make grading more difficult.
4. Students should have the opportunity to interview published authors: When given the opportunity to interview published authors, middle school students learn a great deal about the art of writing. The good news is that many authors are willing to visit classrooms and interact with students at no charge. Visits through video call are also possible.
Students should read a short selection of the writer’s work before the visit and prepare five to ten questions on the work and the writer’s process in advance of the visit. Each student should express their questions in front of the class and take notes on what the writer says. It’s incredible how much territory they can cover in a single class period.
They must be able to identify their own strengths and flaws: When meeting with students one-on-one, begin by asking them to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the piece they are working on at the time of meeting. Students can frequently identify the strengths of their writing, but you must still urge them to be specific: “Can you tell me what makes this sentence effective?”
It’s more difficult for them to identify their own flaws. “I just don’t like for this portion,” they’ll say of a certain section. Once again, it is your responsibility to assist them in being particular.
The greater the number of times students are encouraged to identify the strengths and shortcomings of their writing, the more self-sufficient they will become as writers.
6. We can accept and celebrate our differences: It is critical to teach kids the terminology and principles of English grammar so that they comprehend what you are referring to when you discuss the composition of a sentence. In general, a writer should be familiar with the laws of the language before defying those conventions.
Middle schoolers, on the other hand, occasionally construct sentences with unusual qualities that are visually and acoustically appealing but are grammatically erroneous. The fact that they haven’t fully digested English grammar means that they’re still being playing with the word.
Allowing kids to breach the rules while also letting them know how they’re doing so has proven to be beneficial on these occasions. In this sense, grammatical conventions aren’t overlooked; rather, they’re purposely neglected in order to assist pupils in developing their own unique voice on the page.
7. Allowing children to experiment with different writing styles is extremely beneficial: Allowing pupils to copy others is an excellent technique to assist them in developing their writing voices. When students read short works by authors with different voices and discuss as a class how the writing is unique and intriguing at the sentence level, they gain practical knowledge about how to infuse personality into writing.
Student writers will be one step closer to understanding how to improve the representation of their own personalities in their written work if they are given opportunity to employ these styles in their own writing.
8. They must ask themselves the following two questions on a consistent basis: Middle schoolers frequently leave essential ideas off the page because they either assume you know what they’re talking about or haven’t pushed themselves to think critically about what they’re saying, both of which are dangerous assumptions.
If you continually encourage students to answer the questions “How?” and “Why?” in class and in your comments, they will learn to be more deliberate and detailed in all of their writing in the future. These simple metacognitive questions help individuals to develop more complete and nuanced thought processes, which in turn results in stronger works of writing for others to enjoy reading.