A lot of my teacher friends often tell me that teaching writing is one of the things they struggle with most. I totally get this; it can be really difficult to teach kids how to be creative and improve their content. I find that kids also struggle significantly with the editing process – so often they just want to be done! But we can definitely make writing interesting and fun.
Over the years, I’ve taught several different classes and grades. My favourite has always been teaching English Language Arts, and one of the best ways I’ve found to get kids excited about writing is to use Would You Rather prompts. I like to have my students write every single day because it gives them tons of practice, exposes them to multiple writing styles, and helps them get more comfortable making mistakes and just writing!
Model writing with your students
This is especially important when you’re first starting out with Would You Rather writing, if you teach the younger grades, or if you have weaker students. They need a significant amount of modelling and practice to feel comfortable with the process and be able to attend to the task without an immense amount of adult support.
I have students completing writing of some kind every single day, and Would You Rather prompts are often one of the styles we use. It’s really beneficial to walk through each step with them, from brainstorming to the final piece of writing. You can do this in lots of different ways; as a whole class, in partners, in small groups, and so on.
Depending on the age and levels of kids I’m teaching, we’ll talk at various lengths about different reasons that we would pick one choice over the other, then I’ll give them their paper to begin writing. You know your kids best – if you have wee little grade 2 students, they’re going to need a lot more support around modelling than a grade 9 student. Spend lots of time on this, it’s a learned skill and it’s worth it in the end!
Start off slowly
This is really important. So often we want to rush through tasks because there’s just so much curriculum to get through. Just as I mentioned above, writing is a skill that should be practiced and which inevitably needs time.
It’s vital to teach our students about different types of writing. We can’t just assume that because they’ve learned how to write stories, or research reports, articles, or so on, that they’re going to be great at defensive writing.
Talk with them a lot about this style of writing and show examples. Let them practice how to write every little piece, down to how to write sentences that work. One of the first things I notice when kids first start writing P paragraphs is that they have a hard time connecting every sentence to their main point. Much of the time, it’s because this hasn’t been taught in enough detail – so drill it in! It’s a skill that will take them well into high school and, if they decide, university.
Let them have fun
This should be a fun activity! Writing is already difficult for many kids, so if your students don’t enjoy writing, they certainly won’t want to practice and get better at it.
The fun part about Would You Rather prompts is that they can be really silly and kids get to be creative with their responses. Let them do this! Unless they become not-school-appropriate, you should let them come up with crazy responses! As long as they defend the point, why not?
I absolutely love hearing kids’ different ideas about these – they’re just so unique and creative. Even with the same prompt, kids in different classes will have completely different ideas, and there’s no wrong answer! Ensure you include lots of discussion time as a class, a group, or in partners because that’s part of the wriitng process, and it keeps it really fun for the students.
Write every day
Writing the exact same style every day may become tedious, but I am a firm believer that writing of some kind needs to be done in order for kids to become comfortable with it. I always have my kids write every single day. We rotate between things like journal writing, responses to news articles, story writing, would you rather (of course), and many more.
Depending on the unit we’re on, I’ll up the type of writing we do at the start of class to reflect it. For example, if we’re doing a film studies or multi-media unit, I’ll have the kids write me film reviews two or three times a week and maybe do less journal writing.
Depending on the grade level and how you set up your class, this will obviously look different for everyone. Whether you have bell ringers, centres, exit slips, daily reflection, or so on – set up daily writing in a way that works for you!
Use this as practice for essay writing
Having your students begin to make a stance or a choice (their thesis) and then defend or explain their choice is a fantastic way to get them to start thinking about how to write essays.
I always, always, always start practicing essay writing with would you rather. When the kids are ready to write a bit more and move on to the standard five paragraph essay, I tell them to think about all the Would You Rathers they’ve already completed. We talk about all the similarities and the fact that, basically, they’re just writing a few more sentences. By this point, I have the confidence that they can do this, they just need to build that confidence in themselves as well!
Get kids talking
I work in a school that’s almost 50% English Language Learners. These guys simply aren’t going to be able to produce the same level of writing as my native English speakers. What I love about Would You Rather prompts is that they’re also great discussion starters.
If I’m working only with ELL students, I’ll just print out some prompt cards and ask the group in a conversation. Then, I’ll have them write a short paragraph, using sentence frames, to defend their answer. This is a great way to get kids talking, listening, and writing in one activity.
If I have a full class which contains a mix of English speakers and English learners, I’ll make sure we use a good amount of our time discussing the prompt. I often will break them into small groups to discuss so that I can ensure the ELL students are participating. Then, I’ll either give the English learners a lower-lever prompt sheet, some sentence frames, or I’ll ask for a shorter response – it always depends on the individual kiddos!
What do you think about these ideas? Are there soe you just know would be gret in your own class? How about any you’d add or get rid of? Let me know in the comments!
Are you interested in using some Would You Rather prompts in your own classroom? I have two different products for kids in different grades, spanning grade 2-9. Working in a K-9 school, I use these all the time with various classes and the kids always enjoy! Click the images below to check these out on my Teacher Pay Teachers store.