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Have you ever felt frustrated as a writing teacher? Have you spent hours or even days planning a writing unit, but your students were less than enthusiastic about it? You are not alone! “How to motivate students to write” should definitely be a college course! In my modest opinion, motivating students to write in the classroom is one of the most difficult things about being a teacher. However, over the years, I have found some amazing writing celebration ideas that have helped me inspire my students to put pencil to paper and write their little hearts out!
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What is a writing celebration?
A writing celebration, also called a publishing party, is an opportunity for students’ hard work to be recognized. At the end of a writing unit, students get a chance to share their writing pieces with their classmates during a special classroom event. Your students just spent days, even weeks, working on their writing! Writing celebrations let them know their hard work wasn’t for nothing.
If you search the internet, you will find some lavish writing celebration ideas that take a lot of work and money to pull off. But if you know me at all, you know that I like things to be simple and effective! Unfortunately, we teachers have very little time and money, so I believe that anything we do in the classroom should be affordable and easy, while still special and memorable for our students.
How can writing celebrations motivate students to write?
There are so many ideas on how to encourage students to write, but writing celebrations are by far my favorite way to do it. Like I said earlier, your students just spent a lot of time and energy on their writing pieces. They brainstormed ideas, created a rough draft, revised their rough draft (even though they probably thought it was perfect from the beginning), edited, and published their writing. If all we do is shove that writing in a drawer and give it a grade, students feel like their hard work was for nothing. Next time they have to write something in your class, they may not feel as inclined to put that much time and effort into it.
You can also think of it in the opposite way! You have a reluctant writer who is unwilling to put in any effort. He probably thinks no one will ever see his writing, so what’s the point!? But if he knew that other people will get to see his writing, would he try harder? I think he would!
Writing celebration ideas
If you search the internet, you will find all kinds of ideas for writing celebrations. But in this post, my goal is to give you a few simple and affordable options that require little to no prep because we are all busy teachers!
Red Carpet writing celebration
I love to have a red carpet writing celebration at the end of our fiction writing unit. This is so easy to set up, and your students will absolutely love it! They will feel like movie stars, and for good reason.
The most important thing you will need for this writing celebration is, you guessed… a red carpet! I often use red bulletin board paper taped to the floor, but you could purchase some red fabric from your local craft store. The nice thing about using fabric is that you can reuse it, but I like all things free, so bulletin board paper it is!
Although this is not necessary, I like to add some decorations as well. I usually buy some gold and silver paper fans and garlands to decorate the board. You will only have to spend money buying these decorations once because you can reuse them year after year.
The best part about this writing celebration is that students get to come to school dressed as the main character in their stories. You might want to let your students know about this celebration before they start working on their writing, so they can make sure to come up with characters they wouldn’t mind dressing like.
Once everything is set up, all you will need is a chair and a camera! When it is a student’s turn to read their story, they will walk down the red carpet while you pretend to be a paparazzi and take pictures. I like to lower the lights in the classroom and make sure the flash in my camera is on. Super easy, but super powerful!
Informational writing celebration
Another one of my favorite writing celebrations is the one we do at the end of our informational writing unit. The goal of informational writing is to provide… you guessed… information! I want my students to remember that the audience should be able to learn something from their writing. So instead of simply listening to the presentation, the students in the audience take notes.
I love this super simple writing celebration because it accomplishes two things: it reminds the authors that the purpose of their writing is to provide information, and it keeps the audience engaged. It may not seem like this would motivate students to write, but it does! Students love to see that their peers are taking notes on what they are reading.
Virtual Writing Celebration
This is for sure my favorite writing celebration! I just love how it integrates technology into writing. We often have a virtual writing celebration at the end of our research unit.
For our research unit, my students have to create a PowerPoint presentation to share what they learned with the class. In the past, I used to have students come to the front and share their PowerPoints, but that would take a lot of time. Besides, I wanted something different that would require students to use technology in ways they had never used before. And that is how our screencast viewing parties were born!
If the word screencast has you running for the hills, don’t go just yet! This is simpler than you think, and your students will learn a new skill that can be very useful in the future.
First, we create our PowerPoint presentations. Of course, by now, my students have already completed their research. They already have an outline of the information they are going to add to each slide.
After they have finished their presentations, I ask my students to write a script. This is great because now they are having to rewrite the information in their research, but in a different format. I remind them that they should narrate their presentations as though they are talking to someone about it.
As they finish writing their scripts, students begin to record their screencast presentations. I like using Screencastomatic for that. In my opinion, it is the easiest tool to use, and it is free! You will have to show your students how to use it, but once you show them a couple of times, they are good to go!
Once they are done recording, they upload their videos to a virtual platform to share with others. My favorite tool to use for this step is Seesaw. Seesaw is an amazing classroom app that allows students to create a digital portfolio of their work, and it is free!
It is then time for our viewing party. Feel free to bring some popcorn to make it extra special. Students watch each other’s presentations and leave comments. I love that on Seesaw, you can adjust the settings so that comments must be approved before they are visible.
My absolute favorite part about Seesaw is that students’ work can be shared with anyone using QR codes. You can click here to learn more about how to get students’ individual QR codes directly on Seesaw.
We display our QR codes on the bulletin board outside of our classroom. Now anyone who walks by can scan and listen to their presentations. My students get super excited every time they see someone scanning their QR codes. You can also send those QR codes home, so the parents can watch their child’s presentation.
Writing Celebration Ideas if you are short on time
Unfortunately, time can often be an issue in our classrooms. With so much information to fit into one day, it is easy to skip the “extras,” like a writing celebration. However, we must remember the end goal of writing celebrations. At the end of the day, we want to motivate students to write. So we really can’t afford to just skip them.
Having said that, if you are still struggling to fit these in, let me give you some writing celebration ideas that require less time, but still pack a punch!
Encourage students to write with a celebrity reading
Ask your principal if she would be willing to read some writing samples over the loudspeaker for the whole school. Randomly select some writing samples from your class or ask students to volunteer. Voila! A writing celebration that will motivate students to write without taking any time away from your instruction.
Host a Gallery Walk
Create a beautiful display outside of your classroom with your students’ writing samples. Place some sticky notes and pens on a desk directly under or next to your display. Then, invite other teachers to come by with their classes, read some of your writing samples, and use the sticky notes to leave special notes to the authors. This is definitely how to encourage students to write!
Motivating Students to Write in the Classroom
I hope these writing celebration ideas got you thinking about how to motivate students to write in your classroom. It is no easy task, but with some creativity and a pinch of fun, you can get even your most reluctant writers to become published authors.
If you are struggling with how to begin teaching writing in the elementary grades, Suzanne from Teacher Writer has an awesome blog post with amazing ideas to get you started. You can click here to check it out.