A Recipe for Writing Motivation

Article excerpt

This Idea-Sparker was submitted by Gina McClure and Jennifer McClure Middleton Writing Coaches, Mobile County Public School System, Mobile, Alabama.

There is nothing worse than hearing moans and groans when you announce to your students that it is time for writing. Wouldn't you rather hear cheers instead of anguished cries? The answer to this problem may be found in a simple recipe--a recipe for motivation. In my experience as a writing coach, I have found that no topic seems to motivate children to write as much as food does.

During my first few years of teaching, I struggled to find a way to spark students' interest in writing. While literature connections led to success in most situations, it was not until I pulled out a bag of miniature candy bars and asked my students to describe their favorite one that I truly discovered a powerful inspiration for writing. I took it a step further, developing recipes for more "interesting" foods to heighten writing motivation. Refrigerator Surprise, Risky Chocolate Cookies, and Crawling Candy Creatures are just a few of my recipes to spark students' interest in writing. I have included writing workshop tips and the recipes and lesson plans for motivational writing activities in the descriptive, expository, and narrative modes. Perhaps these ideas will inspire you to write your own recipes for writing motivation.

Be sure to consider your students' dietary restrictions before developing recipes. The following recipes would not be appropriate for a class with a diabetic student.

A Recipe for Writing Workshop: A Process Approach

* Establish your writing workshop procedures and teach your students these procedures.

* Thoroughly model the writing process for your students before you ask them to go through the process on their own. Provide scaffolding and support as needed. The following steps should be demonstrated for each mode of writing. The writing process occurs over several days, and students should feel free to work at a comfortable pace.

o Planning/Prewriting, using a graphic organizer

o Drafting

o Revising (including peer and teacher conferences)

o Editing (including peer and teacher conferences)

o Publishing/Sharing

* As students work, circulate around the room to provide them with support. Continuous feedback and conferencing have a huge impact on writing achievement.

* Plan to meet with your students regularly for writing conferences. Set goals for improvements during conferences and hold students accountable for meeting these goals.

* Teach mini-lessons on figurative language, word choice, organization, sentence fluency, voice, content revisions, editing for problems in conventions, etc.

* Have students use an Author's Chair to share their published work.

* Allow students to create books and illustrations; they love doing this and it provides additional motivation.

The Refrigerator Surprise: A Descriptive Writing Recipe

The following recipe creates a rather "gross" motivation for writing. While food is one degree of motivation, gross food, I have found, provides an even higher degree of motivation. Follow the recipe below to create a "surprise" for your students and then follow the "recipe" for a descriptive writing lesson.

Ingredients:

  1 package of miniature pastel-colored marshmallows
  1 package of white chocolate candy coating
6-8 drops of green food coloring
    Chocolate sprinkles
    Wax paper and cookie sheet
    (20 servings)

Directions: Melt the candy coating until it is smooth and creamy. Add
green food coloring and stir until it is evenly distributed throughout
the candy coating. Evenly spread marshmallows out on a large cookie
sheet lined with wax paper. Spoon the greenish candy coating over
marshmallows, covering them as evenly as possible. Top with chocolate
sprinkles before the candy coating cools. …