We know the recent news and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has many schools and districts worrying about the safety of students, staff, and school communities. Shifting to remote learning is an added challenge in an already difficult time. As schools face extended closures, teachers and parents are settling into a new reality, and whether you’ve shifted to full-time remote learning or providing online educational opportunities for students, you may be looking for new ways to motivate and engage your kids in their learning.

Writing is hard – always – and moving to online learning is a new challenge for students. Marco Learning is here to put student writing lower on your list of worries. In this blog post, we’ll cover ways teachers and families can motivate students to engage in the writing process at home. Read on for tips and resources!

How to Encourage Students Writing at Home

As a 100% online, web-based tool, Marco Learning can help minimize disruption and keep instruction flowing even during an extended break. Our online writing coaches are available and ready to provide students with meaningful and detailed feedback on their writing. Here are some other tips for keeping your students in regular writing practice.

  • Build writing into a daily and weekly schedule. Worksheets and other online activities are great in a pinch, but to provide your students with the highest-quality online instruction and support during extended school closures, they need frequent opportunities to write. As with any skill or talent, regular practice is what leads to progress. Build daily quick-writes into your online teaching schedule and provide your students with a weekly prompt or opportunity for more extended writing. This will help maintain student writing skills and build good remote-learning habits. Looking for inspiration? The New York Times is offering free daily and weekly student opinion writing prompts through the Learning Network. For extended narrative writing, generate fun creative writing prompts with Story Shack.
  • Promote joint reading and writing exercises. Writing has been shown to improve reading, and the opposite is true, too! One of the best ways you can keep students engaged during this time away from the classroom is reading. Make it a goal for your students to read a variety of text types at least 30 minutes daily and then spend time writing a reflection, review, or response to what they’ve read. Looking for a good book to read? Check out Common Sense Media’s “best books” lists for age-appropriate book recommendations. Wonderopolis will get students reading shorter articles about fun topics with prompts for further research and reflection. (What are zombie worms? Can you hide a secret message in a song? Can you believe two opposite things?) Scholastic is offering free learn-at-home projects with reading and exploration activities for students of all ages.
  • Give students more choice. Students who feel invested in a subject are more likely to write more and try harder. With increased ownership and agency, students will feel more positive emotion towards writing and be more likely to engage in deeper, richer learning that is appropriately challenging for them, and those aren’t the only benefits. Let students choose to write from a list of approved topics or give them the option to pick their own topics or projects for approval. Work with the openness of an unconstrained schedule to allow for more “choose-your-own-adventure” activities and projects.
  • Offer different forms of writing: Academic essays are important but can be difficult to motivate students to write. Offer alternatives to the traditional essay: invite students to write poems, short stories, commercials, songs, portions of  movie/television/play scripts, blogs, news stories, how-to guides, or interviews. These alternate forms of writing might be more enjoyable for students and increase their chances of feeling motivated to write at all, particularly if you combine this with free choice.
  • Publish student work and build community. Seeing their writing published or produced can encourage students to create their best work and stay connected to their classmates even when learning is remote. Publish student writing on a class website or blog. Allow students to respond to each other’s writing through comments. If a public website or blog isn’t an option, share student work in a class newsletter or anthology.

AT HOME ACTIVITIES AND TIPS FOR PARENTS

At Marco Learning, our mission is to support student learning. Decades of research have shown that feedback is the single leading driver of learning growth, and every parent knows how powerful individual attention is for learning. Given the extreme disruption to learning caused by the coronavirus crisis, we’re making our remote feedback services available beyond the traditional school setting to ensure your children are receiving the personalized feedback they need to stay on track. Learn more about how our online writing coaches can help your student, and let us know how we can best support you and your child in this difficult time: Online Writing Coaches

Practicing writing skills at home is essential – it gives your kids a chance to put their academic writing skills to practical use. …But knowing how to help kids with writing isn’t always easy, so we’ve also put together a few ways parents and families can help at home. Each of these is flexible to your child’s age and skill:

  • Make space: With a lot of time at home, students will need dedicated space for their work. Create a space in your home where your child will feel comfortable doing homework and writing exercises. Consider setting up a more “fun” alternate workspace: maybe your student’s best writing happens in a cozy writing corner instead of at the table where they do most of their schoolwork. Don’t be afraid to encourage creativity with fun pens, markers, or crayons.
  • Encourage journaling: Encourage your child to build a habit of journaling. Besides being a way to practice writing, it can be a great way for students to express themselves in an uncertain time. Younger writers may need more specific guidance before they are ready to free-write about their day. Here are 300 short writing prompts for kids to get them thinking and writing.
  • Practice technical writing: Task your child with writing instructions for taking care of the family pet or preparing a favorite family meal. This is a great time for kids to learn to help with more household chores and skills – so turn it into a writing project!
  • Write reviews: Encourage students to write an online review of a restaurant, store, movie, or product they like (or dislike!). Push them to include multiple reasons and plenty of detail explaining why they recommend or don’t recommend what they’re reviewing.
  • Read and write: Read with your child and encourage your child to read independently. Use reading as an opportunity to push writing: ask your child to try writing a reflection or alternate ending to something they’ve read, or try to write a story together. By reading and writing together, you’ll help your child develop ideas more efficiently, which will translate to their performance in the classroom. Lexile Framework and PETAA have some helpful tools and strategies for reading at home.
  • Write letters: Work together to write letters to family and friends. This can be a great new way for students to stay connected to the people who care about them.

The tips above are a great way to encourage writing at home under any circumstances, but if you’re also looking for ways to support your student’s academic writing skills during these uncertain times, we encourage you to use some of the same tips and resources recommended for teachers above. Daily writing, choice, and project-based work will go a long way to motivating students and keeping them thinking.

Whether you’re a teacher looking for ways to keep students motivated in their writing while schools are closed or a parent looking for small ways to supplement your child’s academic writing at home, weaving in just a few of these tips and strategies will help maintain skills.  Improving students’ writing skills may seem like a tall challenge, but by doing a little planning and identifying which of these strategies will be the best fit for your classroom goals, individual students, and current school circumstances, you’ll be able to transform your online classroom or home into a great writer’s workshop.