Friday, February 12, 2021

Nonfiction Writing Tips: Developing a Spirit of Inquiry

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been describing strategies from the anthology Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing that students can use to choose topics they’re excited about for nonfiction writing projects. You can scroll down to read these posts.

But to create a list of possible topics—an Idea Incubator—students need to know how to recognize their personal interests. For some children, this is easy as pie, but for others it can be a struggle.

If your students need support developing a spirit of inquiry, I recommend using (or adapting) some of the activities that enrichment specialist Jeanne Muzi suggests in her January 2017 ASCD Education Update article “Five Ways to Strengthen Student Questioning.”

And it all else fails, you could try introducing an Idea Jar to your classroom. Students who are endlessly curious about the world and how it works will generate more ideas than they could ever write about. They can help struggling classmates by focusing on the one idea that speaks to them most and adding their other ideas to the classroom Idea Jar.

You can add ideas too. It’s a way to anonymously provide guidance rather than dictate a topic. And because you aren’t usurping your students’ power to choose, they'll be able to take ownership of the project and the process.

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