Monday, October 11, 2010

Warm Up Your Writers

How do you get your students' creative writing juices flowing?

In the classroom, my most common problem is students who are UNWILLING to write.  These students have a variety of reasons not to want to write.  They might be afraid to share, afraid to make mistakes, or have simply convinced themselves that they have nothing much to say.

So, of course, the writing teacher's job is to navigate a way around these challenges.  We need to provide a nurturing environment that allows students the freedom to create.  We need to help students tap-in to all of the stories and experiences they've had, and write about them.  For some, we might even have to help students build experiences to write about.

In the early days, before I get so deep into encouraging students to generate their own topics, I try to free up their WILL TO WRITE by giving them some irresistable topics to write about.  I always start with this old favorite:

In a very animated way, I suggest...."What would you do if it started raining while we were at school? And it kept raining and raining all day.  More rain than you've EVER seen before.  Buckets of rain.  So much rain in fact, that the principal comes on the intercom and tells everyone to evacuate the building.  The problem is the water has risen to the top of the building.  So your teacher has to break out the window with a chair and everyone tries to swim out.  The top of the school building is the only place you can actually stand and not be under water."  Then I start asking, "What would you do?  Can you swim?  Would you try to help others who can't swim?  Would you find a flotation device in the classroom?  Would you build a boat on the roof top and go looking for your house?" And on and on it goes.

By now,  hands are WAVING wildly because their imaginations have been tapped.  So I acknowledge that they are dying to tell, but they are to WRITE their response.  I tell them to allow all of those ideas to just flow from their mind and travel straight down the arm, into their hand, and come out through their pencil!  I think the wilder the story, the more fun and outrageous, the better the chance to get buy-in.  Tailor it for your specific age group.  Other fun ideas include designing an amusement park ride, designing a video game, getting out of a terrifying situation, what to do with a million dollars, etc...

Try it!  See what kind of results you get.
I've gotta go it's beginning to rain!  Yikes!!

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