Writing Opportunities for Teens — Contests and Blogs
Whenever I speak on writing, I ask students whether they like to write. There are always a few, usually sitting on the front row taking copious notes, who respond eagerly that they LOVE to write. A few, usually sitting in back, clearly not there by their own choice, indicate firmly that they don’t like to write anything, anytime.
The most common response, though, comes from the majority, who indicate that they like to write as long as they are writing something that they want to write.
Further investigation reveals that most students enjoy writing things that communicate with a real audience (not just mom or a writing teacher). Some enjoy writing letters, blogging, creating websites, journaling, compiling research on topics of interest, entering contests, and writing stories. A2Z Home’s Cool offers a good list of contests open to homeschoolers, and you can find others by searching online.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us that students don’t like to feel as if they are wasting time, any more than adults do. Once students move past the copywork and dictation stages of writing instruction (see my two-part article on teaching writing if you’re not familiar with these), it can be very helpful to offer assignment options that will contribute to the student’s sense of purpose, as well as to the development of his or her skills.
One worthwhile writing contest was the 2008 National Kids-in-Print Book Contest for Students, sponsored by Landmark House. Originally the brainchild of author David Melton, the “Written and Illustrated by” competition is open to students in three age categories: 1) Ages 6 to 9 2) Ages 10 to 13 3) Ages 14 to 19. My boys submitted books when they were in the youngest age category, and those books remain among our most delightful keepsakes from homeschooling. Sadly, the contest is no longer running, if you can find a copy of the Written and Illustrated By book by David Melton, I recommend it highly. It is well worth the price, as it provides hyper-detailed instructions for writing, illustrating, and binding a 32-page book.
Blogging is another avenue for purposeful writing. Just as with any online activity, it should be done with the full advice, consent, and appropriate supervision of parents. Students can post book reviews, favorite quotes, excerpts from other school assignments, and other things. WordPress.com makes it easy to get started.
Contests and blogs are only two of the many ways you can offer your students the opportunity to write with a purpose. The best way to practice writing is to write, and the more often, the better. There may still be a few boring assignments, but if you provide teens with the opportunity to write on topics of interest, to a real audience, their enthusiasm for writing will definitely increase.