5 Ways to Motivate Middle School Writers

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Ah, middle school! A time of hormone surges and living in a sort of limbo stage between childhood and adulthood.
As a parent, I do sometimes feel like we’re living in the Matrix when it’s time to sit down and focus on “schoolwork.” And English gets a bad rap anyway as a “boring” required class.

Literature and Grammar

It’s easy to make the literature part more fun and meaningful by choosing books that appeal to your child’s interests and adding in short stories and poetry that complement them as well.
For the grammar side of it, try giving your student a grammar handbook and letting him use it as a reference book instead of assigning them endless grammar and punctuation exercises to complete. When he makes errors in his speech or writing, refer him to the relevant section of the handbook so he can learn how to correct them.

So what about writing?

No, texting does not count as composition, but there are some fun ways to motivate middle schoolers to write. Think outside the box, or the page, a bit, and give students an alternative to the traditional essay once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with a three- to five-paragraph essay from time to time, but there are other options that might motivate reluctant writers.  The rules are the same, however, and they must still use good grammar and sentence structure, with a clear theme and thesis.

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  1.  Teach your child that writing is a process. The finished paper is only the result of time spent brainstorming, note taking, pre-writing, writing, revising, re-writing, revising again, and careful editing. Instead of giving a grade only for the completed paper, give grades as you go along at each stage of the process. This will give teens an incentive to spend more time at each stage, carefully crafting something they will be proud of.
  2. Chopped–Give your child three words as “ingredients” that he must incorporate into a story. Using a timer, have him write non-stop for thirty minutes. In this activity, anything goes. Don’t worry about errors or grammar. The goal is just to get their story on the page. After time is up, they can go back and polish it if they’d like or just leave it as is. My son was frustrated that he didn’t have time to finish his story and decided to keep writing after time was up! Read what he came up with using these ingredients: a Nalgene bottle, the President, and a slot machine. (narrative writing: telling a story).
  3. Propaganda posters–Have your students design  posters to back a cause. This can be anything they are interested in or related to a specific book or historical era you are studying. They must have a clear thesis, and everything on the poster must support it. Give them a large sheet of paper, markers, and time to let their creativity flow. Don’t forget to tell them to illustrate it! The idea is to get kids thinking about how to present an argument with evidence (persuasive writing: convincing your reader).
  4. Cartoons–Students can design a cartoon and add captions and dialogue. Encourage them to try to tell the story through the pictures, using the words as the secondary element to the cartoon. Then, discuss how to make the words enhance the cartoon and make it funnier or more understandable. This activity isn’t about artistic ability, so encourage kids who don’t think they can draw to use stick figures. The cartoon should use words and pictures together to set a scene (descriptive writing: painting a picture).
  5. Newspaper–This activity is a good complement to history or literature. Students design a “front page,” complete with title, headlines, and news articles. Either allow students to come up with it all on their own, or assign a specific date for them to “report” on. When we read To Kill a Mockingbird, my son designed a “Maycomb Gazette” and reported on the major events from the novel. (Expository writing: just the facts).

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What about you?  In what ways do you motivate your Middle School Students to write?

 

Anne CampbellAnne Campbell is the mother to three boys (in every sense of the word!) and a homeschooler for the past eleven years. She is the Managing Editor of Blog at Home Educating Family Association, columnist for Home Educating Family Magazine, and member of the Home Educating Family review team. As a former classroom teacher, she loves to share resources and ideas and encourage other moms and homeschoolers. When they started on their homeschooling  journey, her oldest son was in kindergarten. They decided to take it one day at a time, one year at a time, and now she has a high school student, middle school student, and elementary student, and all still at home. They fly by the seats of their pants most days, spending as much time as possible exploring nature, and seizing learning opportunities whenever they appear. You can visit her at her blog Learning Table. You can also find Anne on Bloglovin’FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.

Braving the Rapids

 Braving the Rapids

 

White Water Rapid Days

I had the best intentions. After squeezing in one last week of summer with my husband’s time off from work, we planned to “start school” full steam ahead on a Monday. Books were stacked and ready, schedules were organized, and the table was cleared off. Still trying to catch up on laundry after a camping trip, I was optimistic that we would be ready to conquer our new schedule with the new week. Then, the kitchen cabinets almost fell off the wall! A few phone calls led to a repairman investigating the cause and discovering that none of the cabinets were attached to the wall properly. It was a miracle that they had not fallen already. The “quick fix” involved emptying everything out of all of the cabinets, six hours of noisy repair work, and then putting everything away again. Needless to say, the school day was shot, and my “best-laid” plans flew out the window.

Days are simply not predictable, no matter what my intentions might be, so how do I maneuver the rapids, while still moving forward?

Back-Up Plans

First of all, I have learned to scale back on things that take large chunks out of my day—letting some things go, and not being afraid to delegate. I prepare in advance for times when I cannot be available to work one-on-one with my kids, just as I prepared emergency substitute teacher plans when I taught in the school system. Some ways that I cover school when the day is quickly slipping away include:

  •  Assigning independent reading
  • Having kids listen to an audio book
  • Letting kids do lessons from a workbook, such as vocabulary or handwriting
  • Assigning dictation work
  • Keeping a list of writing prompts handy, and giving each kid his own journal to write in.
  • Pairing kids up to practice math facts or learn vocabulary words with flash cards
  • Turning on a science, history, or literature related DVD
  • Sending kids outside with nature journals and field guides in hand to observe and study
  • Giving kids a project to work on, such as building a simple machine out of Legos, completing a geography puzzle, or experimenting with a science kit

Enjoy the Ride!

When the day gets in the way of school work, I don’t take it as a failure. Looking at the bigger picture and how far we have come helps to prevent discouragement. I don’t play the comparison game. After ten years of homeschooling, I have learned to use my schedule as a tool and not my master. If long term roadblocks occur, I pare down to the three R’s for a while and focus on the basics. Above all, it helps to breathe, put things in perspective, and remember why I homeschool in the first place.

With distractions, interruptions, and white water rapid days occurring when I least expect them, I do have to remind myself to cherish this time with my kids, so I hold on tight and enjoy the ride! And oftentimes, the  white water rapid days are more fun than the predictable ones.

 

Anne CampbellAnne Campbell is the mother to three boys (in every sense of the word!) and a homeschooler for the past eleven years. She is the Managing Editor of Blog at Home Educating Family Association, columnist for Home Educating Family Magazine, and member of the Home Educating Family review team. As a former classroom teacher, she loves to share resources and ideas and encourage other moms and homeschoolers. When they started on their homeschooling  journey, her oldest son was in kindergarten. They decided to take it one day at a time, one year at a time, and now she has a high school student, middle school student, and elementary student, and all still at home. They fly by the seats of their pants most days, spending as much time as possible exploring nature, and seizing learning opportunities whenever they appear. You can visit her at her blog Learning Table. You can also find Anne on Bloglovin’FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.