Writing Workshop: Six Helpful Ways to Improve Student Motivation

Inside: Six ways to improve student motivation during writing workshop.

As a kid, I dreaded writing class. Actually, it’s hard to even call it a class. It was more like the teacher gave us a direction to write a story, and we did it.

I was always confused when I lost points for organization, writer’s craft, or some random thing that I didn’t understand.

When I became a teacher 30 years ago, I knew I wanted to teach writing in a different way. I wanted my lessons and activities to be engaging and meaningful. I wanted my students to love writing.

But They Didn’t

At least not at first. It seemed that writing workshop was the least favorite time of the day. I would hear comments like these on the regular.

“I can’t think of anything to write.”

“Writing is boring.”

“Can’t we just draw it?”

I was determined to build student motivation in my young writers.

This girl is experiencing some common frustrations during writing workshop.
It’s time to get something on these blank pages! Photo by stockyimages.

Time for a Mindset Shift

Students may have a variety of reasons for not wanting to write.

  • They don’t see themselves as creative.
  • A previous negative experience.
  • The don’t like the topic
  • Fine motor problems
  • Lack of confidence
  • They feel too restricted
  • Hyper-focus on spelling

I address most of these issues by working on transforming students to a growth mindset. Once students realize that they are writers, they start pouring out ideas.

Bonus: If your looking to improve your students’ mindset across the board, make sure to grab your FREE Mindset Mastery Toolkit at the end of this post.

The six strategies below foster a growth mindset and motivate students to write.

Get ready to hear, “Yes! It’s time for writing!”

1. Let Them Choose

Having students integrate their passions can be one of the most effective ways to get them to write.

For example, if you have a student who can’t stop talking about Minecraft, try:

  • Narrative – My first Minecraft game
  • How to – How to beat the Ender Dragon
  • Expert writing – Possible Categories: Building, Pets, Nether, PVP, Character, Tool Belt,…
  • Persuasive writing – Why you should play Minecraft
  • Realistic Fiction – The Best Minecraft Game Ever
  • Fantasy – If I were a Minecraft character

Truth be told, I would like my students to write about a variety of topics. But not at the expense of their enthusiasm. If your students have a passion, let them run with it!

2. Provide Resources

Students may get hung up on how to spell words, which prevents them from getting their thoughts on paper.

Providing resources can help tremendously with this issue. Try using

  • Spell Checker
  • Word Wall
  • Spelling Dictionary
  • Personal Word Lists

Let’s talk Homophones

When it comes to super tricky words, like homophones, it’s helpful to provide students explicit practice in addition to a reference. By giving your students homophone practice and references, they will become more confident with their spelling.

No more asking, “Which there do I use?”

Amp up student motivation to practice homophones with this engaging set of activities.
Tricky words, BEWARE!

3. Incorporate Technology into Writing Workshop

Using technology can be a great way to get your students excited about writing! Who wouldn’t want to make a Slide Show about puppies or Pokémon?

Using technology has many benefits.

  • Great for students with handwriting issues.
  • You are able to provide more frequent, specific feedback.
  • The spell check can be a lifesaver.
  • Copying and pasting beats erasing any day!
These kids are showing the student motivation can be improved with technology.
Incorporating technology can transform complaints in to smiles! Photo by WaveBreakMediaMicro.

5. Give Feedback along the Way

Frequent check-ins can help your reluctant writers gain confidence.

Here’s a list of prompts that can help your writers when they are stuck.

  • Awesome sharing. Now write that.
  • I’d really like to hear more about ___.
  • Take a risk and try what we talked about today.
  • How could you add ___?
  • Here’s our list of (bold beginnings, transitions, etc.) Which one would you like to add?
  • Once you finish ___, you may take a short break.
  • The more you write, the better you will become.
  • Let’s tackle this one step at a time.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. This is a draft. We will come back to it later.

4. Provide Challenges

Nothing can put student motivation to a halt more quickly than boredom. It’s important the your students feel challenged during writing workshop.

When I taught fourth grade, we had figurative language standards. I created activities for my students to practice, and I encouraged them to incorporate figurative language in their daily writing.

Now that I teach second grade, I use these activities for my writers who seem to have all the basics down.

I see the pride in the ear to ear smiles as students revise sentences like, “It was the best day ever.” to “The day felt like a dream come true.”

I have recently revamped my figurative language activities, and I have found them perfect for challenging my students.

Use figurative language activities to add some challenge to your writing workshop.
Keep your writers challenged!

6. Have a Publishing Party

If you asked any of my students about their favorite part of writing workshop, they would respond, without hesitation, our publishing parties.

Publishing parties can take many different forms.

  • Students get in small groups and share
  • Invite an older “buddy class” to come in and share.
  • Invite a class a year younger to come in so they can be excited about the project next year.
  • Make a book to give as a gift.
  • Have students walk around the room, read others’ writing, and write a specific compliment on a piece of paper.
  • Invite parent/significant adults in for sharing.
  • Create a class anthology and place it in your classroom library

Remember: If you have a few students who did not put forth their best effort, they will almost certainly increase their effort for the next publishing party.

We are all Writers!

Fostering a growth mindset will help all your students see themselves as writers.

I never saw myself as a writer when I was in school, and I believe that was one of the big reasons why I didn’t enjoy it. Now I not only love to write, but I cherish the times when students say, “I actually like writing now.”

Keep Growing

Teaching growth mindset strategies have made a world of difference in my students’ attitudes towards writing as well as other subjects. If you’re ready for less complaining and more productivity, make sure to grab my free Growth Mindset Mastery Kit.

Get everything you need to shed those fixed mindsets delivered to your inbox by completing the form below.

  • The Power of Yet – Color and Apply
  • Change those fixed mindsets with two pages of quotes to revise.
  • Mindset sort – Promote awareness of fixed mindset statements.
  • .Label the mindset – Identify and Label what works and what doesn’t.
  • Goal Setting page – Plan and Celebrate!

How do you motivate your young writers? Please share strategies in the comments below.

Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.