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Writing Topics -- Teacher or Student Choice?!

Please give me your opinion with reasons on the advantages / disadvantages of students choosing their own weekly writing topics  vs.  teacher-generated list from which to choose topics or prompts.

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If student could choice their  own writing topics, they would have more inspiration to write. It is easier to write about fields that we have most knowledge and interest. The weak side here is that students would not be widen their vocabulary as well as their knowledge on a wide range of topics.

If students were given a lists of topics by their teachers, they would feel somewhat confused on strange or difficult topics. To write better, students will look for information in books, or on the Internet,...Ultimately, they would have a better background knowledge As we know, writing skills are important and a compulsory part in most international tests. So,  students should be able to write on any topic, not just on limited topics that they like.

After all, I think writing topics should be teachers' choice. That is because teachers would be likely to choose topics that have most benefits to their students' writing skill progress. The most important here is teachers will create interesting atmosphere or tell some thing that attract students' attention. Then, they would feel eager to write without procrastination. 


THANKS, Rose!  This is extremely helpful.  What I've done so far is give a list of MANY prompts/topics that vary from fun creative to persuasive writing.  I've asked students to write me a short letter requesting a topic of their own choosing (to explain why that would be a good topic) so they'll have that option from time to time. You are so right that writing should expand both their vocabulary and range of knowledge. Thanks again for your great input!

I implemented a 'lifebook' homework assignment in 6th grade. The lifebook came out of the invitational two years ago, when a dear friend attended...

I find that some students have a miserable time finding a topic, while others can't find enough space for all they need to write. It is more of a dilemma than one might imagine. Often, at least at this age- students need to 'see' a beginning, hear a thought process, or discuss what matters. 

Is it 'the age' of uncertainty, or that the clingy-ness of grade school lingering? I have no answer. 

Weekly-- you only choose one a week? Our middle school has instituted a daily writing assignment. Our kids (low income, 80% second language) have great verbal skills, but low writing skills, and we were bombing the proficiency exam. The idea was if the students wrote more often, they would get better at it. This has problems. Did you hear the 'practice makes perfect' myth?? Only perfect practice makes perfect... so more is NOT the answer. More written correctly WILL improve writing skill. However, to improve the skill with which  a student writes, they require more supervised writing, and much more revision to learn to self-identification of gross errors, how to fix them, and our biggest challenge- the re-write.

I teach 7th and 8th graders. In the past I have provided a general subject and let my students narrow it to a manageable topic. For example, this essay will be about holidays. They could narrow that to my 3 favorite holidays, 3 family activities that occur during holidays, 3 favorite Christmas memories, or Monday holidays. That gives me some control of the topic, but I don't have to read essays from the exact same prompt. 

This year, I am going to try a brainstorming activity at the beginning of the year. The students will generate 5 or 6 ideas for each type of essay - persuasive, informational, cause/effect, etc. They will then use their own list when we are writing those types of essays. I've not done this before, but I'm excited to try it.

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