There’s nothing quite like a blank sheet of paper (or a blank computer screen) to get all of those internal anxiety buttons blinking and whirring. When you add a timer or deadline, along with the stress of high-stakes testing, it’s a perfect storm for the dreaded writer’s block!
Today I am going to share a few practices I’ve found to be very effective in increasing my students’ writing fluency while simultaneously decreasing their anxiety.
1. Create a classroom culture that encourages risk-taking and celebrates mistakes as part of the learning process.
We have a poster up in our room that says, “Mistakes are proof that you are trying!” We refer to it often, and I can honestly say that having this as a credo has made a significant impact on the likelihood that students will take risks. We’ve come to view mistakes as a GOOD thing instead of something to dread, and this has helped take the sting out of those inevitable failures.
When students aren’t quite as afraid of failure… when they feel comfortable taking risks… that blank page does not loom quite so scarily. In a world that is safe for taking risks, the blank page becomes an opportunity for creativity, for communication, for experimentation. This is exactly what I hope for my young writers, so we establish on the first day of school that mistakes are OK.
2. Equip students with an idea journal.
“I don’t know what to write about!” We’ve all heard that one before! The solution is to have students come up with their own topics long before they’ll ever need them.
At the beginning of the year – or really, any time of year – I provide my students with graphic organizers that prompt them to think about topics they might want to write about one day. If you click HERE, you’ll find four of these graphic organizers for FREE!
3. Emphasize the power of planning!
In our classroom, we follow the same RACEEE procedure with any writing across all subjects. Do you use RACE? It’s a great way for students to plan their writing, which then makes the actual writing much less stressful.
First, we Restate the question or prompt. Next we Answer the question or prompt; this step is quite often hand-in-hand with the restatement. We substantiate our answer by Citing Evidence; this is not limited to text. In math, for instance, our evidence may be the solution to a problem. The other Es in our classroom are Explain and Elaborate; we also call this “frosting the cake.”
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope you’ve found a tip or two to be helpful, and that you enjoy the free graphic organizers!