With the pressure to raise scores on state assessments, the lean tends toward the prompt-writing side of balance is strong. Yet, if students always have free choice in writer’s workshop, they wouldn’t do very well with the state mandated prompt.

Students need balance. Try some shared experiences to give students some open-ended options within necessary constraints.

For primary, much time must be given to free-choice topics to woo students into a love for writing. As grade levels increase, so must mandated topics and assignments.

  • But try this…after introducing each genre: narrative, persuasive, and expository, give students a chance to try each one with their own topics.
  • Give students a topic and ask them to choose how they will show what they know. Accept writing, drawing, or any medium.
  • Introduce P.A.T. (Purpose, Audience, Topic) and begin the process described below for the upper grades.

Upper Grades–lean towards more shared assignments overall. This requires students to own part of the process. One way to help create balance involves P.A.T. If students understand purpose, audience, and topic, assignments involving changing one of the three provides some choices.

  • Require the topic, but ask students to determine the purpose and audience.
  • Ask everyone to write to a specific audience but allow them to choose unique reasons to write about self-selected topics.
  • Give the purpose and allow free choice of topic and audience.
  • Allow more humor. If students, especially boys, feel free to include sarcasm, wit, and humor in their writing, they are more apt to enjoy the process. Voiceless writing can occur when choices are limited.

What can make balancing a little easier? Try tracking student writing experiences. Kristina Smekens has a free downloadable tracking sheet to show the balance–or lack of–in writing assignments.

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