Line limits, word counts, and time crunches- OH MY!
In the world of standardized testing, it's too easy for the fun to get sucked right out of writing. What a disservice to our kiddos! Well, now that testing season has ended and school days are numbered (29 to be exact), let's commit to writing instruction that celebrates risk, creativity, and sharing.
The easiest way to have little (and by little I mean 6' 2") writers broaden the horizons of their page is to give them a style to imitate. The goal is that they will find some tips, tricks and techniques they like and feel comfortable with.
One site I love is 1000 Awesome Things.
- sleeping on clean sheets
- giving up on finding a lost item and then uncovering it
- that bonus tator tot in your order of fries
This site started out as a daily reminder to air on the side of optimism. It has now turned into several books.
Select several entries for students to read through that will serve as their mentor text. (You can find a few of my favorites here, here, and here.) As student read through the texts, have them highlight or underline things that they like about the writing. Then allow students to share what they like while you stand at the back of the room trying to fend off hyperventilation because you just tricked thirty students into having a conversation about author's craft. You go girl!
Now it's their turn. Have students brainstorm a list of things they consider to be AWESOME. Depending on time, you can have student choose one item from their list to draft or start a couple and then have students choose their most promising beginning. Encourage them to use their voice as they write. The sample are funny and/or sweet. How did they get that way? Word choice, rhetorical questions, repetition... If it worked for them, make it work for you!
This is an excellent opportunity for students to share their writing. Check out where I wrote about grouping strategies to get students talking.
You could also watch the author's, Neil Pasricha, TED Talk if you're into that kind of thing. I am! I am!
I love that this assignment makes writing powerful (again). It has the power to bring a smile, make you think, and/or help you cope.