Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How do you keep students energized to write?

Well, we are here to share a few ideas that we use to help keep students energized in writing!

I'm going to share two strategies I've used, neither of them is my original idea.  I just borrowed them from someone else.  :O)

The first is called power writing.  I really am not sure who came up with this.  I wish I could give them credit.  But it's something that our reading coach shared at staff development.

Here's how it works:
You give the students two completely random topics.

I gave polar bears and hand sanitizer.  (We had just read an article on polar bears and hand sanitizer is random).

Here's what they do.  They pick one of the topics.  Then they write for 3 minutes, nonstop, pencil to paper.  The key= no stopping.  It doesn't matter what they say about it.  They just write.  You set the timer.  It goes off.  You say stop.  Then they count the number of words they wrote and they write the number on their paper.

Then, you give two more different topics.  I gave football and math.  They do the same exact thing again.  3 minutes, pencil to paper, no stopping.  They count the number of words, and write it down.

It looks something like this:

You can see here, the first time she wrote 67 words about hand sanitizer.  Then, she wrote 80 words about football.

This student wrote 52 words about polar bears and then 70 words about math.  (I think it's hysterical that she wrote that she loves math so much she could marry it!)

You are asking yourself, why is she having them do this???

Because, it encourages and increases stamina.  They are writing about random things, it's not being graded, and it doesn't really matter what they say.  They count the words, because then they can see just how much they can write about random things.

Plus, they start to compete against themselves.  When they see that they normally write more the second time, they want to continue improving their number.  I only did it twice in a row, but you could even do three times.  It's a quick and simple way to show them that they CAN'T say "I don't know what to write" or "I have nothing to say about this topic".  Clearly, if they can write about hand sanitizer, they can write about pretty much anything.

The other idea came from Lucy Calkins when I saw her at a conference a few months ago.  It was such a simple idea, but one I had not tried.

You pick a topic that you have been learning about or that they know really well, and you have them write everything they know about it.  Everything.  We tried it with the American Revolution.  Here's what it looked like:

This student wrote 3 straight pages in about 20 minutes.  When I had them do this, I was really just testing Lucy Calkins's idea.  I was thinking maybe it wouldn't work or that they'd hate it.  I was WRONG!!  They LOVED it!!  They begged me to do it again the next day!  I was shocked!  But, again, they knew so much about it, they could continue to write, and it was about anything they wanted to tell me about the topic.  I gave them no limits, except the topic, and they knew I wasn't grading it.

From here, they could write an informational piece.  They could zoom in on one part of the American Revolution and give more detail and it would be so easy, because they'd already shown THEMSELVES that they knew so much!!

I guess Lucy Calkins knows what she's talking about...  :O)

Those two strategies showed the kids that they CAN write and when they realize this, they LOVE it!!

The last thing is not really a strategy I use, but something that motivates my kids.

Writing with a colored pens.  I sort of LOVE colored pens and I think some of that has rubbed of on my cuties and they love it, too.  I actually use it as motivation for good behavior.  If I compliment them at some point in the day, they can choose a colored pen to write with for the day.  They know, as soon as they hear the compliment, and they go straight to my pen jar and pick one.

When they found out I'd let them write in their journal with them, they were thrilled!!  Hey, if it's that easy, I'm all for it!

What are somethings that you do to motivate your kids to write?  I'd love to hear about them, and if you can, link up with
:O)  Amanda


  1. That first idea is our favorite guy- Jeff Anderson! :) thanks for linking up such great ideas! I'm so glad you included power writing in this post. I almost did!! Pens are such a good idea too. All things color are motivators! :)
    J to the Ivey

  2. I love that power writing idea! I am doing to try that tomorrow! :)
    Thanks for sharing!

    And yes, colorful pens are quite motivating! I always tell them that the colored ink gets their "brain juices" flowing!

    Joy in the Journey

  3. Such a cute idea! I love the idea of two random topics and building their stamina.

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

  4. Oh my! We will be using these tips for the rest of this year! Fabulous as always! I love having my students tell me what they know, but writing it is a great idea!


  5. I love all these ideas! Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to try power writing with my students tomorrow :)

  6. I love the idea of building stamina this way! I might have to try this with shorter time for my first graders-I think now they are at a point where they can do this and would be really excited to beat their own record! :)

    Thanks for sharing! PS if you have a minute come check out my post because I used your girls' cute stuff to create it! :)

    Learning to the Core

  7. I love the color pen idea and how they know to go and get one as soon as you compliment them - will be trying that out for sure. We were introduced to the same technique that you called Power Writing only we call them Quick Writes - we keep a small (half of a small notebook) in our desks to pull out just for quick writes. I often find myself thinking Lucy Caulkin's ideas won't work - but then I try them - and you are right, she knows a thing or two about kids and writing! Pinning the entire blog!!!

    Looking From Third to Fourth

  8. I forgot about Power Writing. I used to do it when I tutored writing.

    Lucy Calkins rocks! I don't always make it as far as I'd like to in her books, but what I do use works.

    I will have to remember the colored pen idea. I guess it wouldn't matter if their writing in their journal.


  9. WOW! Both of these ideas are great for building stamina and will definitely help motivate my reluctant writers. I posted about the power of colorful writing tools. Fourth graders are in awe when they see colored ink or paper! Thanks for sharing such as amazing post!

    Foreman Teaches

  10. I love the name power writing! It just sounds motivating! We do quickwrites where they write for 2 minutes on a specific topic/item, but I really like the idea of a choice of two topics! Thanks for sharing! Definitely using next year!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  11. I am so with you on the stamina! Just get them writing...about anything that they can write about! I love the two topic idea and your term, "power writing". Don't you just love it when they beg to do something again that you weren't even sure they would like? That's awesome!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  12. Oh my goodness I'm starting this tomorrow! What a perfect thing to mix in with what I posted about! Man I'm so glad I clicked on your link in the party even though you posted way before I did- I just knew I had to check out what you'd written about and thank goodness I did!

    LOVE IT!

    x Serena x
    Magic Mistakes & Mayhem

  13. I'm loving these ideas! I'm going to give them a try in the next couple of weeks. I keep colored pens at my Work on Writing center. They love those. Writing with pen makes 3rd graders feel big. It's funny. Great post!
    Beach Sand and Lesson Plans

  14. Hi ladies! Hope you are doing well... 30 days left for me! :)

    I almost wrote about writing stamina too! :) We do 10 minute quick writes with different choices for journal topics in this room. There are five topics for the week, it doesn't matter which day the students chooses which topic, because by Friday all five will be complete. We count our words too and hopefully watch the numbers rise throughout the year. I know the numbers depend on how the students feel, their prior knowledge, and the topic they choose, but I really think it helps the students open up and write!

    Pinkadots Elementary

  15. I love these ideas. I will definitely try them out before the school year ends and make my kids think it is some sort of game. We are at the point where I feel like a devil for expecting them to actually write...How many sentences? Is this enough? I'm done!!
    Thanks for the ideas!

    Literacy Spark

  16. Its been pretty important for the students to follow each and every possible guideline as mentioned above and favorably these will proved to be much better which are said to be of even more importance. personal statement nephrology


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