Three High-Interest Writing Assignments to Motivate Struggling Writers

Motivating struggling writers can be quite a challenge.  With struggling writers, it is important to create high-interest assignments that students will want to work on, assignments that they will want to put forth the effort on in order to succeed.  If struggling students are bored with a writing topic, they won’t be as invested in it and won’t want to put the time and effort in to make it the best it can be. 

Here are three high-interest writing assignments to help motivate struggling writers:

1.  Serial Killer Research Project

Serial killers have a way of gaining our attention and fascination.  Murder mysteries dominate television shows, movies, and books, and they can also gain the interest of students.  For this assignment, students can research infamous serial killers and write a research paper on a person of their choice.  Of course, this is not an assignment for the faint of heart and is probably more appropriate for upper grades.  But students can practice research skills by evaluating sources, compiling an annotated bibliography, and writing a research paper with evidence about the infamous killer.  As an extension activity, students can explore the various theories about how and why serial killers do what they do.  Students can even debate these theories and write a persuasive speech or essay as a response.  I created a product for detecting tone and bias in the media about the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper who terrorized London in the late 1800’s.  Find a link to this product at the bottom.

2.  Screenplay Project

There’s nothing students love more than movies!  Another way to tap into student motivation is through screenplay writing.  In this project, students evaluate and analyze traits of existing films such as character and plot in order to create their own original screenplays.  Students then map out the plot of their films, write a sample scene, and create a trailer to their movies to share with the class.  They then have to “pitch” their movies to the class who can pretend to be a production company that can either buy the movie idea or not.  Students will have fun pitching their ideas to the class and pretending to be in the film industry.  An extension activity to this project can be a group essay in which each group writes an expository essay of their films.  Included here is a free screenplay assignment to use with your students!  Click on the image below to download this FREEBIE!

3.  Fan Fiction

Another high-interest assignment is to have students hold a book club for popular young adult fiction and then afterwards write fan fiction stories in response to their book study.  Students can write fan fiction stories and then share them via an online blog or portfolio.  They can also write responses to each other’s fan fiction and evaluate how the fan fiction story compares to the original story.  Consider the following list of popular YA books to motivate struggling students: the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Fault in our Stars by John Green, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and others.

About the Author

Meredith Dobbs is the founder and creator of TeachWriting.org and Bespoke ELA.  She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University.  She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing.  Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and pups.