Welcome to 2017! It's customary around this time of year for many people to make resolutions for the year to come. They resolve to lose the weight, take up a hobby, finish that project that's been gathering dust in the corner, or learn a new skill. In light of these goals, we say, why not learn to write?
For most people, writing seems like a chore. Most students equate it to turning in a classroom assignment, which can seem overwhelming or boring to most, leading to frustration or anxiety in some cases. But making a resolution to develop your students' writing skills can have impacts on their lives that you may not realize.
First and foremost, writing every day has great health benefits! It can help people gather their thoughts to start the day, manage stress at the end of the day, or just help with tracking of food intake, exercise, or sleep patterns. Some writers even report that writing helps them manage depression and anxiety. The best part about writing for personal growth is that these journal entries aren't for public consumption, so there's no need to worry about the presentation of the writing. Without that pressure, writers can experiment with their entries, include doodles and sketches (which also have benefits of their own), and find what works for them.
Not only is writing good for your health, it's also good for your career. Students who are trying to manage the academic and social demands of school may not be considering this aspect of better writing skills, but now is the time for them to start. Writing clearly and concisely helps you communicate with colleagues and creates a sense of credibility in the reader, who won't be distracted by misspellings or unclear language. In fact, some of the most successful business leaders are writers. In the professional world, many first impressions are made in written form: job applications, cover letters, email introductions, and sales pitches are just a few of the ways in which we introduce ourselves through our writing.
Some students may be nervous or reluctant to start writing more. But there are ways to make it easier to incorporate into every day life. Here are our tips for encouraging your students to write more in 2017:
Start small. Encourage students to start with easy goals at first, so they don't get overwhelmed with the idea of having to write every day. Let them focus on what works for them. Do they like journal writing in the morning as a way to focus on the rest of their day? Or would they prefer to write at night to share details of their days and make notes for the days ahead. The act of writing at night can ease stress at the end of the day and help students get better sleep. Just remember, there are no rules.
Get feedback. As we mentioned before, journal entries aren't necessarily for public consumption. But if students are writing cover letters or personal essays, make sure they understand that feedback from teachers, friends, and family can improve writing. During a peer review process, students can get insight into the clarity of their work. Maybe they thought they explained something really well, but it doesn't translate to the reader. When these needs are identified before a final piece, it can make a world of difference in the final result.
Read. Reading is shown to improve focus, concentration, and imagination, all of which can contribute to better writing. Books can also be used as mentor texts to gather ideas and learn different writing techniques that can be incorporated into your students' writing.
Don't give up. It can be frustrating when students receive harsher feedback than they expected or when they are struggling with writer's block. But writing takes time and practice. It's a skill that must develop just like anything else. Tell students to go easy on themselves and remind them that the more they write, the easier it will become!