I must share this awesome foursome of writing resources that grabbed my creative eye as I prepare for an online OK2Ask session in August.
Gone Google Story Builder (reviewed here). Layer writing on top of digital storytelling about writing using this tool that plays back the writing and editing process as a video. Here is a tongue in cheek (?) example. Imagine assigning students to write s story about writing, portraying two or more characters in the process. Suddenly, the writing matters because we are highlighting the actual process of writing. But the metalayer is that we can “see” the persona doing the writing. What a wonderful way to make students aware of narrative persona and of the thinking processes involved with writing. It would be great fun for a student to show an internal tug of war as he/she writes, such as the impulse to be wildly creative and the impulse to please admissions committees reading a college essay. To actually use this in class, you might have to start by simply brainstorming characters who could be writing and editing a piece together: a parent and a teen, Jekyll and Hyde, a dog and a cat, Hemingway and Dickens, etc. It also might be easier to make this a partner project. Then ask students to jump back and describe the message of the writing “story” they have told. Layer on layer…
Five Sentences (reviewed here). This is simply a challenge to become more succinct and get to the point in emails. Email is a boring old people medium, but it is also a workplace (and adult) reality. It is a very practical way to focus writing for a purpose. Students could start with examples of long emails they or their parents have received, rewriting them in five sentences. Then they could write their own five sentence emails for a real purpose. [Five sentence end here...got the gist?] Many web sites have “contact us” boxes with limited text fields, so the five sentence limit is good practice. Brainstorm things teens might be asking for: a refund, a replacement for a defective product, information about something, etc. Then have them write the five sentences. Make a five sentence rule for emails to YOU as the teacher, and promise to respond in five sentences. Do you think parents would comply?
750 Words (reviewed here) Everybody needs a place to mind-dump. This private space is a good one to vent, collect pieces of writing you don’t know what to do with, lines from songs you like, or angry words you should never actually send via email or text. If your students have email accounts, they can have 750 words accounts. These personal spaces are great for daily write-to-think time, but they are even more likely to be used if students have permission to write off topic at last part of the time. Instead of having them write for you, have them write for themselves. Keep a class 750 words account where students can enter simply the TOPIC they wrote about with their own 750 Words today. That list will become inspiration for others.
Quest (reviewed here) Write a game. A long time ago on devices with small black and green screens, there was a game called Adventure. Players made choices about their moves based on text descriptions of where they were and what their options were. The writing must be very clear and consistent, but the option to use vivid description and clever plot twists makes text-based game-creation addictive. A science or history teacher could incorporate writing and gaming to reinforce concepts. For example, a game written by students could include accurate geologic formations or chemical reactions. A game set in a certain place and time in history could include encounters with actual historic figures. This seems a perfect collaborative task for a group of 2-3. Just realize that it could spin into weeks of game obsession. Got gifted? Toss this one at them as a way to use what they know and write their way much further.
I love summer for getting the creative juices flowing.