Encouraging Writing


Each student (or teacher in your case) has a blank sheet of paper in front of him. Ask each to write a verb on the first line. Then have each pass the paper to his left. On the "new" piece of paper, in the middle of the first line, each person writes a setting (forest, room, the Statue of Liberty, whatever). It doesn't have to "go along with" the verb already there. Again, everyone passes that paper to the left. Finally, on the third piece of paper, each person writes a noun or proper name (this will be the character). If they choose a proper name they must add an appositive (see definition below) so we know something about the character. One more pass to the left.

Now, armed with a verb, a setting and a character, everyone begins to write. Tell them to just read the three words and start writing, but advise them that you are setting a five-minute timer and that when the buzzer sounds (or when time is called), they will forward the paper along to the person on the left. Repeat this process for as long as it is fresh and fun for the writers (a maximum of 15 minutes). Be sure to let the last session be about writing an ending to the piece.

At this point, the students (teachers) have a choice. They can either pass the paper again with the recipient responsible for then organizing and revising the piece. For guides to revision, see "6 Traits + 1". I suggest their taking the piece they just finished writing and doing their own organizing and revising at a later time.

This can go as far or be as abbreviated as you wish it to be, even going to the level of editing and presenting if you like. It's fun, fresh and eye-opening. I've used this with students ages 7 through 18 and it works with all of them!

Give it a technology slant: Instead of passing papers, have the participants move, rotating from computer to computer - all running Word or other word processing software. This is kind of like musical chairs. They rotate one computer station to the left for the three words, then you play "musical computers," and when the music stops, that's where you have to begin writing!

Submitted by: Cathy P. Miller, Independent Literacy Consultant
Huntsville AL

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