We cooked our green eggs and ham and walked around school in red and white striped hats, all in the name of the love of reading. Our students were able to hear different adults reading some of their favorite stories aloud. NEA’s Read Across America was a success, but let’s not let our focus on literacy, a core 21st century skill, waver just because Dr. Seuss’s birthday celebration is over. A firm grasp on reading and writing is essential for our students success in many other important 21st century skills.
To encourage student writing, Reading Rockets and AdLit.org bring us the Exquisite Prompt challenge. This is a monthly writing challenge for K-12 students to respond to prompts inspired by famous authors and illustrators of books for youth. These prompts cover a wide range of topics that make students think about subjects they might not have written about before. The fact that they are writing for a competition with prizes may inspire the competitive side of your students, too.
The prompts provided each month guide students to use specific styles of writing, and these styles vary between the grades and change from month to month. This variety is very appealing to many students. Some of the prompts ask for advertisement copy, reviews of products (real and imaginary), fables, altering classic stories in different ways, and many others. This partial list does not do justice to the scope of material in these contests, so please check out the prompts for yourself to decide how you can integrate them into your teaching this week. http://www.thegateway.org/browse/dcrecord.2010-02-25.2930201486
Reading through all of the prompts inspired me to think about how we could incorporate creative writing into all different types of classrooms. We need to carry on the theme of creativity we gleaned from Dr. Seuss in the past week. The more we encourage our students to write for enjoyment, the more they will actually enjoy it! We don’t want our students to groan every time we want them to write. We should give them a chance to get creative and flex their writing muscles in all different subjects.
I don’t want to discount the importance of a five paragraph essay, or any other type of structured writing. One vital purpose of English is to learn the conventions of writing and how to use writing to convey thoughts to others. Understanding how to write in certain formats will allow the student to be a productive member of society. We need to also support all forms of writing in other subject areas not immediately connected to English class.
Math involves a lot of numbers, but there is a history behind the processes and many different methods for remembering and explaining these processes. A math teacher might be able to deepen students’ understanding of certain subjects by allowing them to write creatively on the subject. Perhaps students can explain how to multiply fractions in a Haiku or write catchy song lyrics to remember the order of operations in algebra!
. Writing is an important tool in teaching foreign languages. Students can write about all different subjects in the target foreign language to get good practice in writing and conjugating verbs. If you are tired of reading the same types of essays week after week, you might want to have your students translate their favorite recipe (and bring in a sample…even better!) Maybe they can write a review of their favorite movie in the target language or an illustrated guide explaining how to complete their least favorite household chore. They should be able to use some interesting adjectives there!
P.E. is another story. We can’t integrate writing in that class…or can we? We can encourage writing in P.E. just like we encourage it in other subjects. Students are learning about all different types of sports, sportsmanship, and things like body parts and muscle groups. Help them absorb this information with some fun writing assignments. Spice up your running routine by assigning students to write “Jodies” to sing while running as a class. They can vote for their favorites at the end to keep it competitive. Help them remember anatomy terms and other information better by allowing them to create their own mnemonics to help with memorization.
I don’t think I have ever heard such class-wide groans as the moments after I announce a lab report assignment. Lab reports are an important aspect of the scientific process, but science teachers may be able to judge their students’ comprehension of concepts using other forms of writing as well. You might choose to allow students to present their procedures and results more creatively, such as in a graphic novel or comic strip. They can create a Power point presentation, or use another web 2.0 tool to create a stunning online presentation of their understanding of the experiment. Refer back to one of Joann’s previously highlighted resources for more technology tools that can help you incorporate writing in your classroom. http://www.thegateway.org/browse/dcrecord.2010-02-04.5930943702/
Writing is an essential life skill, and creativity is the key to making the process of writing fun and enjoyable for students. One of our goals should be making writing a lifelong endeavor for our students. I urge you to use resources from The Gateway to help you make this happen. The Reading Rockets sites we have highlighted the past two weeks have wonderful, free material for you to use. Using the tech tools we mentioned in past columns can allow you to add a lot of variety to the types of writing your students are doing in your class. It takes a lot of time to come up with completely original ideas of our own. It is really nice to know we have a place to collaborate and find well-planned activities and ideas we can incorporate in our classrooms right away. Enjoy reading all the great writing assignments, and we look forward to hearing what you did!
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