Reinvigorating Informative Writing

Students love to argue, debate, tell stories, or so much that informative writing can sometimes feel like boring, or even unnecessary, work. As a result, the informative essays or summaries that are turned in can feel uninspired.

I've been working on how to keep students motivated when they are explaining, teaching, or reporting instead of persuading, and here are some of the things I've learned in my classroom.

Tip #1: Provide expectations and examples

While it's essential to briefly review the difference between informative and argumentative writing, my students also needed help realizing when they were unintentionally making biased word choices, and they only somewhat understood the importance of including a balance of viewpoints. Even when we had read sample articles as mentor texts first, they were still accidentally writing moments of persuasion during informative pieces. (Depending on your students' needs, they may also need help with lessons like formal writingconcise writing, and using the pronoun "you" less often.)

Once they understand what informative writing LOOKS like, then they need to get excited about the possibilities!

Download these three FREE posters to help illustrate what the genres are AND what task opportunities await!

Tip #2: Create an air of mystery or investigation
In my experience, students are much more willing to ditch persuasion if they are uncovering the truth in a mystery. Even an informative or research essay is more fun with the right topic (or the right set of directions).

For example, some of the projects in my Informative Writing Bundle include Unsolved Mysteries, basic News Reporting, or telling Both Sides of the Story, and those have had higher levels of student engagement than a summary assignment with less interesting context.

The bundle is a 10-pack of projects so that you can assign one to the whole class or provide a menu of options!

Tip #3: Get an audience
The best experience I've ever had with informative writing, to date, was when I recently made an Intro to Journalism unit from scratch (designed for beginners). After a crash course on journalism and informative writing, students applied for jobs in our newspaper "staff", wrote individual articles, and created a one-time newspaper. (However, if you're pressed for time, you can stop after writing the articles and omit the Project-Based Learning newspaper staff portion.)

My point is that the imminent threat of having an audience read their newspaper was far more motivating than grades alone. Providing an audience will make any genre more authentic, but especially informative writing.

My second-favorite informative writing experience is when we write mock TED talks, which technically includes speeches that are a blend of informative, argumentative, and narrative writing.

Spark Joy...
Modeling enthusiasm and generating excitement can happen for informative writing just as much as in any other genre! Even without persuasion, students still have worthwhile things to say and a world that needs truth.

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