Do you ever find that your students are intimidated as they begin to complete a writing assignment?
Who isn’t a little intimidated to start writing when all you have is a blank white page staring back at you? The next time you hand out a writing assignment, consider making some time for the class to collaborate and share ideas to “pre-populate” the blank page prior to sending students off to complete the assignment. Here is one way to facilitate this process:
Step 1: Present the topic for the paper to the whole class.
Step 2: Ask each student to write at least two main points they would include in a paper about the topic. If possible, have them capture each of these on a separate sticky note, index card or small slip of scrap paper.
Step 3: Place students in groups of 4-5. Ask them to share the main points they generated in step 2.
Step 4: Encourage each group to brainstorm additional main points to include in the paper. They should capture each new main point on a separate sticky note, index card or small slip of scrap paper. To encourage collaboration ask groups to appoint an ambassador. This person is responsible for selecting the group’s three best ideas and sharing those with another small group in return for that group’s best ideas.
Step 4: Direct groups to organize the slips of paper with main points into a short outline for the paper. Encourage students to use a large table or area of the classroom floor to complete the sorting activity. Depending upon the level of experience in preparing outlines, you may have to scaffold the group through this process. Encourage them to put similar points together and identify larger themes in the points they have generated to include in the paper.
Step 5: At the end of the process. Have students capture the outline their group generated. If time permits, have students conduct a gallery walk around the room to review the outlines generated by other groups. As they do, encourage them to personally collect additional ideas and revise their initial outline.
Students are sure to walk away with plenty of ideas to start writing the paper you assigned!
Classroom Engagement Tip for 9.25.08