Tuesday, February 07, 2006
What was the best thing you did in the holidays?
Reclaiming the power of writing.
It is a cliché about school that the first task teachers give their students is to write an essay about ‘What you did in the holidays’!
Few teachers today would think of doing such a thing. This is a shame because their students have just returned from having a range of experiences that they were fully involved in and that will remain with them for their lives.
We are the stories we tell about ourselves. Stories contribute to our identity and sense of self. What did you do in your holidays we ask others and most of us are happy to tell our stories to those who ask.
The trouble comes when we are asked to write out such stories.
With clever teaching this needn’t be the case.
A simple process that many teachers have found useful is to ask their students to share orally in small groups what they got up to and /or to make list or ‘mind map’ of all the sorts of adventures they had. This works best if the teachers model one or two incidents from their own holiday experiences to illustrate that all that is required is a small memorable incident. Model your story: what happened, what you saw, how you felt and talk as if you were there. Make sure they understand what you want is a quality story – a lot about a little not a little about a lot.
After the students have the opportunity to share a few ideas get the students to choose one that would make great idea to share. Get them to imagine that they were back in the experience and then to write what they were thinking at the time, what they saw and felt and what other said. The best writing is if what they write is much as if they talk. Encourage them to start with a powerful first sentence that attracts the reader and also to invent a heading for their story that doesn’t give the game away! After writing a draft they could share in small groups.
Over the next few days students could write out finished copies. Some may be able to use the word processor. Reluctant students, or very young children, might need their thoughts scribed by the teacher; the teacher asking questions and writing responses.
If an illustration is to be added the children need to understand the need to give such a drawing a real focus on the important aspect of their story. They might be able to import a digital photograph of the incident.
The work needs to be valued by the teachers and every week students chosen to share with the class. Perhaps a display of writing could be arranged with a suitable heading ‘Our holiday adventures.’
This writing for its own sake – to tell a personal story but as well such writing could well be the basis of real literacy – reading their own stories; being their own authors but most of all valuing their own sense of voice and identity.
This uis all about helping students see the power of writing!
For ideas about the process.
For themes to help begin the process.
For helping very young children