Sixth grade students love to talk and interact with their friends and peers. They solve problems through talking, play games while talking, and even talk when they shouldn’t be talking. Many sixth grade students tend to be very outgoing and interpersonal. They experience life through social interactions, as they love doing things together in small groups or with a partner. Teamwork and group work play vital roles for sixth grade students. If offered the choice to work alone on a project or activity or to complete the task with a partner, most sixth grade students would choose to work with a partner. They crave social togetherness and feeling like a part of something greater than themselves. These connections are crucial to how successful sixth grade students feel and actually are in reality.
So, to capitalize on this important facet of sixth grade life, I wanted to try a different kind of writing activity today during Humanities class. While many of my students have already begun to find the fun and enjoyment in writing, a few of them are still stuck in thinking that writing is a required task and not something they enjoy doing. To help inspire my students to get into the Halloween spirit today while also helping them find the fun in the writing process, I had the boys participate in a Group Writing activity. The students each received a different spooky story starter that was the springboard into their story. They used this prompt to begin their story. Each student worked on their story for five minutes, formulating a strong beginning. They then all traded stories with a peer, read what their classmate had written, and then continued building on this new story for five minutes. They rotated stories with their classmates three more times, as they added to new stories, building on what was already written. The last rotation had the students finish the story that was worked on by four other students. Throughout the process, laughter was heard on numerous occasions as they read each other’s stories and added to them. Smiles spread across the faces of my students as they busily worked to craft scary and strange Halloween-themed stories. The boys had a blast with the writing portion of this activity. They all seemed so proud of their work as they pointed out some of the highlights from their pieces while they traded stories with their classmates. One student came to me towards the end of the writing process and said, “Mr. Holt, I’m loving writing so much now that I may start doing it during my free time. This activity is so fun.” Another student, who struggles to write as he finds it boring, told me, “Thanks for doing this activity, Mr. Holt. It was a lot of fun.” The boys seemed to thoroughly enjoy crafting crazy, weird, and morbid stories together as a group. They loved adding to what their friends had crafted and enjoyed reading what their peers had written. While there was very little talking happening during the writing part of this activity, the social interaction component was quite high. The students were silently interacting with their peers in written form. I was impressed and amazed by how much my students seemed to like this activity. It was awesome.
Before moving into the sharing portion of the activity, I asked the students for some feedback on the process. Almost all of the students raised their hands to express how much they loved this activity. To wrap things up, I had the students gather in the reading area of the classroom, turned off the lights, and read aloud their group write stories. I not only had a blast reading their bizarre, scary, and often funny stories, but the students couldn’t stop laughing. When their part of the stories was read aloud, shouts of laughter and “This is mine” were heard. It was such a remarkable experience. By making writing a social activity, I inspired my students to find their passion. My students found the fun in writing during today’s activity. While this is only one way to teach students how to write and craft stories, it is a highly successful method as it allows the students to silently engage in social discourse. They talked with their friends through their writing. Many of the stories had tinges of a video game the boys love playing together during their free time. Almost every story seemed to include some reference to this game. While I have done this activity every Halloween for the past four years, I’m amazed each and every year by how much my students truly enjoy it. This activity is usually just the bridge many of them need to cross over the river of challenges and into the land of Writing is Fun. I can’t wait to see what wonderful masterpieces my students put together during our next writing activity.
Varying the approach to teach writing is important in helping all students see how much fun writing can be. While some boys love writing creative stories or historical fiction pieces, others like writing non-fiction essays or reports. Each student is different and unique in their own way, and as teachers, it is our mission to help them tap into their potential as a writer. What type of writing activity or genre will inspire them? By providing the students with various writing opportunities throughout the year, we are helping them unlock the writer within. Group writing activities like the one I did today, can help students uncover the writer inside of them. Who knows what’s possible unless we give our students a chance to try? So, if you’re looking to mix things up and make writing fun for your students, try a Group Writing activity.