Would you share any of your tricks to getting kids excited about writing in class?

The year is winding down and kids are getting antsy (they are high school ELLs):)  I want to try some different writing activities that will motivate them a bit more to write. In ELD, I teach math, science, English, history, and government.  To be honest, they do everything I ask, but I want to find some different techniques that will re-ignite the enthusiasm they displayed on day one (maybe not totally realistic BUT it is worth a shot).  I have used many interactives on www.readwritethink.org as well as engaging PDF printouts, but I want more.  Can anyone help out here?




Tags: EFL, ESL, English, Geography, Math, Science, Social, Studies

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You might also want to check out Lucy Calkins' Units of Study. Every teacher I've ever known to use her books has said only great things about them. It's written for K-5, but the basic pedagogy is definitely transferrable, especially if your students are lower-level writers.

We used her entire curriculum when I taught 4th grade, and I couldn't believe how my students (most of them ELLs) truly became writers. Writing went from my least favorite subject to teach to my most favorite time of the day. Some of my kids' even had their poems PUBLISHED! That never would have happened before I started using Calkins' books.

Good luck!
Hi Katy,

Congratulations on getting some of your kids' work published! You must be quite an inspiring teacher:) I bet you set the bar high while scaffolding their efforts to reach your expectations.

I was really intrigued by the sample lesson in the link. You are right. The information there could easily be used by my ELLs. My students are still at the first stage where when they write, they could be using "anyone's words." I will look at some ways to have them make the words their own with some fun scenarios. Since they have writing journals, they will be able to revisit their efforts several times before we end the school year.

With California drowning in debt, teachers losing jobs, etc., buying new materials will be on hold until next year (bilingual funds were cut to $75,000 so there will be some money to look at shoring up the ELD program at my site). At that point, I will do some more research on this and see if it is affordable. I really enjoyed watching the demo.

Thank you for your suggestion:)



Hi, Denise--

There is an incredible amount of fun, FREE stuff for a writing class at this site:


Hope your kids have fun with it!

Hi Patrick,

That Myths and Legends creator is wonderful! I picture my weaker writers especially benefiting from it. It is writing for a purpose that allows many end products.

Thank you:



Calkins' work is SO powerful. I am an absolute convert. I teach a graduate seminar for writing teachers and I practically beg them to adopt Calkins' strategies.

The thing I love the most about it is that, with time, students begin to get really, genuinely, authentically engaged in what they're writing. Once they're at that point, they are so receptive to instruction because they actually want to learn it.

Patrick, I love your answer. I assume you mean Lucy Caulkins?
Here are my thoughts. Take or throw, keep or ignore, as you see fit.
I've found with Ell kids that it really helps if you can get them to write about family - who they are, where they came from, who their parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins are. Using a camera to have them concentrate on the writing really helps. Sometimes one of those disposable cameras with 24 pictures lets them tell the story of their family very powerfully, because they can show, and tell.
A very powerful strategy for newly arrived ELL kids is to get them to tell the story of their first day in the United States - the sounds, the smells, their first impressions.
One of Caulkins strategies that I think is especially powerful is getting kids to write about themselves, then teach them about small moments - how writers will take the moments that mean the most, and focus in on them, opening the moment up like a flower. When kids begin to realize that writers are no different than they are, that they can become writers, that they can write powerfully about sitting down at the breakfast table or taking a sick brother to the doctor - then they really do become excited and want to write more and more.
Make sure you don't skip the reading of their stories to others - this is profound for getting kids to want to write.
Culminate, if you can - though some districts/schools are so worried about getting sued that they won't allow this - with each family bringing a dish from wherever they come from, and you get the power of shared food to deepen the experience.
And of course, dork boy that I am, Patrick is right - her name is spelled Calkins.
I knew there was a reason I teach kindergarten!
Hi Denise,

Have you seen this post http://www.classroom20.com/forum/topics/kindergarten-technology?xg_... - an awesome Grade 1 blog page is featured (they don't just blog; they wiki, web page and video). Also, my second post on this page contains a special offer for the Nail It Now keyboarding method that is really special, ie, 75% discount for the month of April

Georgina Farmer
Storybird is an excellent tool for engaging emerging writers. Check out my review here.

Storyjumper is another one. See the review here.

Zimmer Twins lets you create movies out of your stories. Click for review.

I agree with everyone. One of the best methods for engaging writers is giving them an audience. Podcasts and blogs are the quickest way to do this. Kidblog.com is also a great tool for starting your students off. Click here to see my review.
Hi Amanda,

Thanks for the sites. I think the Storybird one would be a good choice for my intermediates. I will share it with foreign language as well.


Sometimes I write down one sentence (not in cursive) of a story, then pass the tablet around, asking everyone to add the next sentence.
At the end, either send it around again or read the story.

Sandy S
So this could be like the game telephone...it definitely has potential:)

Thank you.





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