If you’re the parent of a middle schooler, you might feel like you are living in a topsy-turvy world of mood swings and fidget spinners. Kids this age are caught in that fuzzy adolescent stage of in-between-ness, and you never know who you’ll get from day to day. When I taught middle school in the public school system, my eighth graders thought they were all grown up, complete with constant eye-rolls and attitude, while my sixth graders still brought Hot-wheels and My Little Ponies to school with them.
Motivating Teens to Write
Teaching ANYTHING to a middle school age kid can be a challenge, but English, especially, seems to be one of the subjects most ‘tweens’ dread. I think that is partly due to too much focus on grammar, but also because writing is often taught as a formula of boring rules instead of an exercise in creativity.
What can we do to make writing more meaningful?
Since texting can’t count as composition, try some fun ways to motivate middle schoolers to write. Though learning how to write a good scholarly essay is important, that should not be the only experience reluctant writers are offered. Step back from a focus on formulaic writing a bit, and just get them writing! Once middle school writers discover that there is so much more to explore with their writing, they will begin to see it as a welcome creative outlet.
1. Teach your child that writing is a process, and creative writing activities are one part of stretching those creative muscles. They should not look at their first attempt as the final product. If they are stuck, just getting something down on paper is enough–then have them revisit it later. Some writers hoard bits and scraps of writing that don’t develop into more until years later.
2. Inexpensive hardback composition notebooks make great journals. The kind you can find at the dollar store with sewn bindings are perfect because the pages aren’t meant to tear out. I encourage my students to keep everything they write so they can see how much it changes and improves over time.
3. Make spontaneous writing fun by offering daily writing prompts. Set aside about fifteen minutes to spend writing about a topic before moving into ‘schoolwork’ writing. Get my free Ultimate List of 75 Writing Prompts for Middle School to cover you for a semester. (Included at the bottom of this post)
4. Find sneaky ways to incorporate writing in your homeschool: write thank you notes, record field trip experiences, make creative shopping lists, re-write favorite scenes from books, write movie reviews, make homemade birthday cards, or create a joke book. There are many nontraditional ways to write that still count as ‘schoolwork’ if they are helping your child practice.
5. Don’t make writing a punishment. It should never be forced or used as a consequence for negative behavior. That really just zaps the motivation right out of anyone.
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 remember that there are other options to motivate reluctant writers.
Download the Ultimate List of Writing Prompts!
Download this FREE list of writing prompts to help you motivate teens to write through a semester!
Ultimate List of Writing Prompts
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Anne Campbell, a former classroom teacher with a BA in English, is a writer, editor, and homeschool consultant. Homeschooling for 15 years, she recently graduated her first son, who learned at home from K5 to college. Anne enjoys customizing learning experiences to meet the needs of her 3 boys as they embrace the lightbulb moments of discovery every day. She teaches other homeschool teens through literature study, research paper writing, and living history experiences. Visit Anne’s blog, Learning Table, and sign up for her free newsletter for help navigating everything homeschool, from early learning to college admission, at www.MyLearningTable.com. Follow Learning Table’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram, and Pinterest.