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You Are a Writer, Kid.

Students often feel like the picture above. It’s our job to empower them so they feel…


When you can’t say “you’re a writer, kid” anymore, try these ways to make students feel like they’re writers:

Assign a variety of genres

An article written by Ann David discusses the versatility of writing by listing many examples of writing that people engage in, including progress notes and emails. This conveys NCTE’s idea that “writers are not static.” 

Why this helps

The more forms of writing students see, the more likely they are to relate to one. We want to provide students with those “ah-ha” moments. Students will not be bored with writing if we are giving the freedom to choose topics and to explore writing for all that it is.

Have students pick a profession out from a hat. Have them research what “writing” means in that field and have them practice it. If we show writing in all avenues, they’ll be so shocked by its variety that they simply won’t have a choice but relate to some form of writing.

Ask students questions about their work in a way that encourages their autonomy

According to Jim Burke, “the more students work on a paper through such a process, the more they care, the more they feel a sense of ownership and pride in something,” (85). If students have a say in topic choice/writing process, they are developing a writer identity. 

Why this helps

Students understand that it is their work, thus encouraging the “writer identity.” There is often a disconnect because students feel they’re writing for the teacher. It’s important to establish that even though we grade it, the work is their own.

If we spend writing conferences asking students questions like “what do you want your work to accomplish?” we are enforcing the idea that it is their project and emphasizing the idea that writing has the potential to accomplish something. Nothing is more empowering or liberating than that. 

Show the writing process

Anne Elrod Whitney suggests to, “write along with your class.” Sit in front of the class and don’t hide any mistakes. Show students that (as Ken Lindblom and Leila Christenbury say) “there is no such thing as THE writing process, but rather, many processes that writers may use to compose,” (21).

Why this helps

Students will feel less alienated. They can see their teacher, an authority figure, doing the process with them. Students will feel supported and will have the opportunity to see someone that they see as a “real writer” at work. This could inspire and engage the students.

Sit with your students. Write with them. By being transparent or authentic with our students and not hiding our own struggles with writing, we are creating a space where students can begin to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences via writing. 

Ask students to write the same assignment for different audiences

In their book, Christenbury and Lindblom talk about the importance of writing for different audiences. The three different power dynamics (writing up, writing down, and writing across) are used as a way to assess the audience and adjust rhetoric accordingly. 

Why this helps

Students will feel more confident in their ability to reach different audiences. Use triagulation (53) to teach students how to reach a larger audience. This will increase confidence. They won’t exclusively be “writing up”, like in traditional school writing. If they feel confident expressing their ideas to an audience, they will write more. If they see their writing accomplish something, they will be more likely to see it as “writing.” 

Ask students what grade they think they deserve

Involving students in the grading process is a great way to engage and motivate them. The quote from Burke mentioned earlier shows students care more when they’re more involved. 

Why this helps

If students feel more involved in the grading, they will have greater stake in their writing; they will own it more. If we have students spend a few minutes writing about what grade they deserve and why as well as what they could’ve possibly improved on, they will feel pride when defending their decisions and their words.

Take it a step further: have their personal assessment count towards their grade. They will feel validated and they will acknowledge their role as a “writer.”

5 Free Online Resources to Help You Write Better – The Wise Ink Blog

Isn’t that what it’s all about? NCTE says “everyone is a writer.” I know it and you know it. Let’s get the students to belive it.


2 thoughts on “You Are a Writer, Kid.

  1. Hi Alicia! I absolutely loved your blog! You used such personal language and I enjoyed the shows and references you threw in. I also liked how you played around with some colors and fonts. It was just very fun to read.

    I especially loved the idea of having students writing the same piece for different audiences. This is an extremely useful skill, and a great step towards having students thinking like a writer (and completing authentic writing assignments). It is vital for students to understand that they have to adjust diction, tone, format, and other aspects for various audiences who have their own opinions/authority. I also liked how you included why each suggestion helps. It was very clear to understand with great ideas.


  2. I loved the format of your blog! Very personal and your voice really shone through. The organization choices you made were also very pleasing to the reader; the blog read more as a conversation that you are having with a co-worker or peer rather than a straightforward, academic piece of writing. The fact that you chose to highlight why the topics you chose were important made your piece very clear and concise in what you were trying to say.
    I also very much enjoyed the section about writing the same piece for multiple audiences. That idea is so dynamic and can help student writers not only identify the difference voices they use in their writing, but explore the possibility of authentic writing assignments.


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