Helping Students Build Confidence as Writers

Helping Students Build Confidence as Writers

It’s a regular refrain in English classrooms everywhere: “I hate writing,” or, “I’m terrible at writing.” Writing is a personal and complex task, and it’s often made more difficult by students’ lack of confidence.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help build your students’ confidence as writers, which will ultimately make their writing better as well.

Share Student Writing Samples

Many students feel that they don’t know where to start when it comes to crafting an essay. Without a starting point, these students often get frustrated and give up.

You can give these students a confidence boost by providing models to help them. These models can be papers by former students, samples you’ve created, or work you’ve found online. When you share these models with students, you can also explain why these essays are so effective.

Initially, student essays might too closely resemble the models you’ve provided. However, as students build confidence using these examples or templates, they’ll begin to find their own voices.

Create Opportunities for “Fun” Writing

Creating “fun” opportunities for writing can help students practice their skills in a low-pressure environment and build their confidence.

For instance, you can set aside time weekly for “10-Minute Writing.” Students write for ten minutes, without stopping, on a creative topic you’ve provided. You can also give students the option of writing on a topic of their choice if the assigned topic doesn’t inspire them.

Sample topic ideas include:

  • If you could turn back the hands of time, what moment would you go back to and why?
  • Write a story that includes the words “balloon,” “puzzle,” “decision,” “change,” and “pizza” (or another combination of words you select).
  • List three of your happiest moments so far, and choose one to describe in detail.
  • Write an original, convincing excuse for not doing any work today.
  • Find something interesting in the room, and write the story behind it.

Tell students that for these pieces, they don’t have to worry about grammar, spelling, or writing perfectly. They’re just pouring their ideas onto the paper. You also won’t grade these assignments, unless you choose to offer participation points.

Optional: At the end of each quarter or semester, you can have students choose their favorite 10-Minute Writing piece to expand and revise. This revised piece will be graded.

Allowing students to be creative and to consistently write without pressure helps build both writing skills and confidence.

Provide Positive Formative Feedback

When you’re slogging through dozens of student essays, it’s tempting to only write comments about what students have done poorly or the areas that need improvement.

But if you want to help your students become more confident writers, you should also acknowledge what they’ve done well. Leave specific comments, like, “Excellent transition!” or, “You did a great job explaining this piece of evidence!”

If you’re pressed for time, you can also leave a more general comment, such as, “I’m really seeing your improvement! Keep it up!”

This may seem like a small gesture, but it’ll go a long way in helping your students feel more confident and motivated.

Require Multiple Drafts

Give students the opportunity to receive feedback on a rough draft, make changes accordingly, and then submit a final draft. This will give students more confidence in the final product.

Of course, you probably don’t want to give students feedback on both the rough draft and the final draft, as grading two sets of essays would be incredibly time-consuming.

Instead, you can provide students with a rubric or checklist and have them give one another feedback. After “workshopping” the essay with their peers, students can make necessary changes before submitting the final draft to you.

Alternatively, you can have students submit the rough draft of their essays to WriteLab. WriteLab provides students with immediate feedback related to concision, clarity, logic, and grammar.

The platform further builds students’ confidence by giving them ownership: Students can dismiss or accept comments as they see fit. Ultimately, it’s up to the student how they would like to revise their essay.

Students will feel more comfortable writing their initial drafts knowing they’ll have the opportunity to revise. After making these revisions, they’ll also feel more confident about their final drafts. And while going through the writing process, your students will build skills that will make them better and more confident writers overall.

Confident Students Means Confident Writing

Confidence might sound unteachable, but there are strategies you can use to help your students become more confident writers.

Provide examples, positive feedback, and opportunities for fun, low-pressure writing. You can also allow students to receive feedback on rough drafts before submitting a final draft for grading.

Following these simple steps will improve both your students’ writing skills and their confidence as writers.


WriteLab brings together Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and English Language Instruction. Student writing is analyzed in seconds with the WriteLab app—giving students feedback and suggestions on how to revise and polish their draft.

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