Thursday, April 2, 2009

Teaching writing #1

It was with great joy that we wrote poems. I have found a great site readwritepoem:

Prompts are a great way to encourage writers.
Happily, this month, April, is poetry month. I have been playing along: here are my poems. The prompts are a terrific support for any teachers who are unfamiliar with this process.

Goldberg suggests timed writing. (This works well for prose as for poetry.) Ms. Goldberg* has many such prompts, but teacher's curriculum and resources publish such ideas.
Give a class a prompt - "I remember..." or "The first time I..." and they write for 5 minutes at a time. Each time they finish the sentence, taking up a new thought as they go. Spelling does not count. Punctuation and grammar are for later edits, but for Heavens' Sake you MUST teach this at some time...as you must teach 'traditional spelling' and editing. There is nothing that diminishes a piece of writing than to see errors. One must question the authority of the writer.

But back to the writing process...After this 5-minute period of time, ask them to take one section. Seek a volunteer who will willingly write up a section on the board or chart paper.

For example:

I remember the first time I saw my cat. He sat inside his cage in the pet store. Happily rubbing up against the cage, he watched me. He meowed at me, and anticipated that I might pick him up.

Then, take your chalk, draw a line through the unnecessary words, as such...

Then, the words have to be rewritten. Ask them to try to use adjectives, to be specific about the kind of cat, what is it that they see, hear, smell? Make it present tense, if you wish...

I remember first view meowing cat inside metal cage happily rubbing on the bars he watches me meows again anticipation pick him up enfold him into my life

I hope that helps! Let me know! Pair up strong reader/writers with weaker ones to help with editing. Have them read them aloud. Go for strong language and deep meanings. You will find that our students are our best teachers.
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* If you need more help in learning about writing poems, or any other genres, read Natalie Goldberg's work. She teaches well. These three I would recommend. Her latest is a reprise of her original ideas, but any one will set you on your way. The last one: Thunder and Lightning, pairs poems with drawings. This, too, engages the artist as well as the writer!
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