Short writing exercises and stand-alone assignments have their place, but when I am looking to foster increased motivation, I daydream about projects. What projects can I suggest that will hook and keep a kid's attention?
Ones that have worked well for me so far are...
Magazines: I love this one because students are free to follow their creativity. You can find an explanation here.
Portfolders (aka lapbooks) - Portfolders kept our family busy for years. You can read why I like them so much and take a peek into some of ours here.
Notebooks - When we were ready to venture beyond portfolders, we headed to notebooks. I show some of them here.
Pen Pal Project - I tried this idea with a group of eighth graders. You can read more about it here.
Coil or spiral bound book - What's better: to have a bunch of writing pieces spread here and there or to have the best ones bound together in a book? I think the latter. See a post here.
Blog - When my girls were young writers, the four of us started a blog. It gave them a reason to write and an audience outside of our home. It's old, but it's here. For an AP History class, my oldest daughter made blogs for Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Adams. So many possibilities!
If you're noticing your students plodding through their work, the vision for learning lost, introduce a project centered on a subject they love.
See if the sparkle returns.