Friday 10 June 2016

More Writing Prompts, Please

I am frequently asked for ‘Writing Prompts’ that will help to get student's writing. I was initially confused by this often repeated request. Now I realise it's because it's the wrong request. It's the wrong question.

The question that really needs to be asked is the deeper one. How do I connect to my students and their learning? How do I connect to find that magic moment when I see in my student’s eyes that I have captured them, when I know they are away and when I know they will work hard to find out more?

And the answer is; if a student is given time to explore a topic through the arts; music, drama, dance and visual art, the need for artificial prompts disappear. The arts provides the motivation to write by giving deep experiences, unique experiences that must be expressed. 

Draw it, paint it, sculpt it, make soundscapes, use dramatic play or dance to act out the feelings, the challenges and the observations. The capacity to unpack an idea through the arts is endless. All the enthusiastic conversation about the experiences a student is engaged with will provide all the vocabulary they need. The discussions provide the sentences and structure they need to ‘write about it’ and new discoveries give them something unique to say.

In this process you the teacher will be gifted all the information you need for their writing programme. What vocabulary to explore, what spelling skills and words they need to learn, what sentence structures and language features they need to improve their ability to communicate their experiences, observations, thoughts and ideas. 

Help them to have something worthwhile to write about, something that has captured their attention and delve into that with the arts. Don't worry if it is not yet a complete story. Primary age students often write really well about part of an idea, the part that is important to them, they are fascinated by the detail, the completed whole, the bigger picture, comes later.

An audience to hear their stories will help complete the process, but if a student is enthusiastic about their subject they will find their audience. Your role as the teacher is always to know when guidance is needed, what organisation they need to present their work and what needs to be taught to help them to the next step.

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