Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tips for writing classes

By Molly Merson

Teaching writing is not one of my favorite things to do. Especially because of all the extra hours you get to put in correcting essays. But I've found some tricks that make it more fun for students and easier for me.

1. To instigate journal writing, put a quote on the board, something interesting that can apply to their lives. For me, today's quote was "Words once spoken can never be recalled." Have them chat for a bit with their partner or in groups about a time they said something to someone that they regret, and if that person were there now what would they say to him/her. I usually have them begin journal stuff in class and have 4 pages due a week. As they do something else, partner work maybe, I walk around and check that they've written in their journals. you have to be careful becaue sometimes they'll cheat, so read stuff but not too in depth.

2. Two fun exercises:

a. Take them outside in the garden right now and have them write about what their five senses experience, plus what thoughts they have. Explain that a good writer can sense everything going on around her. Later in the term when it gets colder take them back out and have them do the same. Then return their original essays and have them write a comparison/contrast essay from it.

b. Something I came up with when i was faced with a restless class: Students get into groups of four and bring a pen and paper and a piece of chalk with them. Go outside and have them find a "secret" place and write an X and a message for another group. Then have them write directions how to get to that place. Then they switch papers with another group and try to find the other group's secret message.

3. Movies: movies are great for spurring writing topics. I have shown the Muppet Movie and had them write about a journey they took to follow their dreams to an unknown place. I'm doing Edward Scissorhands next. The best is to give them lots of background info, like some movie reviews, vocab, quotes, simple plot questions, and "bigger questions". The bigger questions can be about the themes in the movie, and these can easily become writing topics. Try to use DVD's with English subtitles so they can understand everything.

As for writing in class, I definitely take the time to do that. It's best if they write something for homework and then bring it to class to exchange with their partner for corrections. Then they rewrite it before they give it to you. Believe me it saves a lot of headaches from poor grammar overload.

New words are good in the form of scrambles etc and then have them write something with these new words. Also reading something to the class and give them a few key words and have them reconstruct the passage adding some before and after stuff works well.

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