Motivation for Middle School Essay Writers

Motivate your Middle School Essay Writers with this Activity!   #teaching #languagearts

Our Big State Writing Test is nearly upon us, so I knew I needed to get creative to get my students motivated!

First of all, I talked about the Super Bowl.

Me:  "So when the two teams that are going to be in the Super Bowl are getting ready, do they say 'Man!  This stinks!  I don't want to play in the stupid 'ol Super Bowl!' ?"  (I walk around and kick at the floor with an exaggerated tone.)

Students:  "No!" with sincerely incredulous looks on their faces. (They probably thought I'd lost my mind.)

Me:  Right!  Of course not!  Instead, they run around screaming "We're gonna win because we're the best and we're awesome and the other team doesn't stand a chance and when we win, we're gonna go to Disney World!"  (And I literally screamed this like I was a football player.  So then they were sure I'd lost my mind!)

But then I said "Our big state test is like our Super Bowl - a Super Bowl for writing.  You should be excited to go in there and show what you know - to show that you are the best and that you are a winner!"

Get Middle School students pumped about your state writing test! #motivation #teaching #languagearts

Then I went on - "We've been training for months - with running 'writing laps' by writing in our journals, and doing 'writing push-ups' when we correct our writing, and even doing some 'writing sit-ups' when we write double-entry journals.  Now we're ready for some regular season games.  This is the Mud Pie league."

Then I explained that there would be several "games" - tasks really - and for each "win" (successful completion of a task), they would earn one piece of a puzzle.  On the appointed day, whatever the completed puzzle showed was awarded.  The full puzzle showed a pudding cup surrounded by various add-ins like sprinkles and chocolate chips to make a "mudpie".

The Mud Pie League motivated my Middle School students to be better essay writers!

Each day I would go around and check students' papers.  If they had completed a task correctly, I awarded a puzzle piece and signed their checklist.  If they had a mistake, they had to find the "fix" in their writing folder, notes, flashcards or on the videos I made for them.  

Then on the next go around, I would re-check anything they'd like and repeat the process for signing the checklist and giving out puzzle pieces.

I did this for one solid week from Monday through Friday.  On Friday, I gave them all "overtime" but at the bell, time was up!  The following Monday students would receive their awards for jobs well done.

Overall, I count this as a success as students had to struggle a bit to find answers and write essays that would score well on the state rubric but students were definitely engaged and learning!  They worked for their reward by putting in the effort to write and be essay champs!

Want to try the "Mudpie League" with your students?  You can check out the ready-to-use activity by clicking here.

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  1. Thanks, Emilia! My students especially enjoyed the day when all their work became actual treats! :)


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