How to Inspire Reluctant Writers

The following article comes from Daniela Shankland, Head of English at Capital School in Dubai, UAE.

Motivating and inspiring children to write can be one of the biggest challenges in the classroom.  

We live in a world where film and technology is at every child’s fingertips, making anything accessible within seconds. The written word itself is rarely used, voice notes and video calls have replaced written messages, knowledge is no further than a quick Google search and platforms for imagination and creativity are navigated by YouTube Videos and the gaming world.  

Is it really a surprise that many children do not see the purpose in writing?  

As teachers, we scurry to find ways to reduce this barrier, and whilst there are many resources that can aid writing, I believe there is only one asset that can truly inspire – YOU! 

How many times have you watched an inspirational video or read a motivational book; ‘How to Live a Happy Life’, ‘How to Start Each Morning with Positivity’, ‘How to Improve your Savings’ – and immediately felt inspired to try it? Ask yourself why this is.  

The ‘presenter’ knows exactly how to visually captivate your interest, which tone of voice will soothe you, the music and sounds that aid this and how to give you clear information with easy steps that you can follow. All with the ultimate objective planted in your mind; if they can do it – so can you.  

We can use similar techniques to motivate and inspire the most reluctant writers to finally put pen to paper. So, what does this look like?  

1. The Presenter Knows How to Captivate You

No idea or product can ever be sold without the seller being the most invested.  

When teaching writing, you have to be the most dedicated advocator for your subject. We all know that reading and writing come hand in hand, so when you read to your class, you must read passionately like Shakespeare, bringing power to every word. There is no room for stale presentations. Why would anyone feel motivated to imitate you if you put them to sleep? Your enthusiasm must engulf the room. You must exaggerate every word and movement like a performer on a stage, make children laugh or gasp with your tones and expressions, moving around the room for exaggerated effect. 

 This is what will make them hang on every word you say.  

This is how you capture every child’s attention.  

This is how, YOU, make them want to be a WRITER.  

2. The Presenter Encourages Reflection

A powerful tool that presenters use is the art of reflection. They make you re-evaluate your point of view or ideas on a topic and guide your thinking in the direction of their aim.  

In the classroom, this is achieved by linking ‘writing as a reader’ and ‘reading as a writer’. When you read you must consistently stop and question what the writer does and discuss how, as a reader, it makes you feel. When you model writing, you must emphasise your reasoning. Again, using your expression and energy to evoke the power of the writer’s word and encouraging your ‘audience’ to do the same.  

This ignites children’s desire to create the same effect in their own writing. They begin to understand the way in which words and grammatical structures can be played to create tangible feelings. They make the connection that all writers put thought into what they are doing but most importantly, the reaction is has on the reader, is as captivating as the videos they watch.  

Teachers are the most powerful presenters that the world has

3. The Presenter Offers Tools

All presenters provide you with a short list of tools or ingredients that you will need to achieve the desired aim.  

When reading and exploring key texts, we must encourage children to notice the ‘ingredients’ used by the writer. Motivate them to collect vocabulary, specific grammar and punctuation use and, with this, create a simple recipe that children can access when writing independently.  

Again, think back to the motivational videos you watch – they don’t just list the ‘tools’ they guide you through their collection like a journey, making you feel involved in the process as well as ensuring it is memorable. 

I believe that, in the classroom, we should avoid just giving children word mats and a list of aims and instead actively take them through an expedition to collect what is needed. This alone will empower them with the right ‘ingredients’ and understand when and how to use them.  

4. The Presenter Gives Easy Steps

If I gave you the equipment to build a computer without instructions – could you do it? Okay, if you had an interest in this filed perhaps you may take on the challenge, but for most of us this would seem daunting. Most likely, we will become frustrated in the process and finally stash it in a drawer and never look at it again.  

Writing is the exact same. Again, as children are less subjected to written texts throughout their daily lives, their experience of what a writing piece ‘should’ look like, is minimal.  

Presenters are aware of this when sharing their ideas, they know that everyone may want to take part but just don’t know how to – so what do they do? They give you instructions. Easy, small steps that make you believe that you can make anything happen.  

It is imperative that we do the same but again, not just a list of steps that suddenly appear on a child’s desk but instead, like a presenter, we guide you through each step as we explore different texts, making it simple, visible, and manageable. 

Teachers are the most powerful presenters that the world has. We must always remember that any barrier can be reduced if we make children believe in what we are ‘delivering’, believe it is purposeful and believe that they too can do it.   

Author: Daniela Shankland

Head of English at Capital School, UAE

Daniela is Head of English at Capital School in the UAE with 10 years of teaching experienceboth in the UK, and in the Middle East. Throughout her career, Daniela has used her expertise to lead many subject roles, including English, Maths and STEM. Her passion has always been to improve learning outcomes, support teacher development and ignite a love for learning in all students.

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