Writing prompts are ubiquitous in this age of high-stakes testing. The belief is if we allow students to respond to (daily) prompts, their writing will improve. But this doesn't always happen.
This morning, via a tweet from Ira Socol, I came across a post entitled The Over-Prompting of Young Writers. The excellent points made in this article may cause you to rethink your use of writing prompts. What are the unintended consequences? Do writing prompts, in fact, stifle quality writing? What do we do when students are unable to make connections to the prompt because it does not relate to their life? The author, Heather Rader states:
Some teachers tell me their students respond to a writing prompt every day. Here are a few prompts I've read student responses to:How do you deal with the Zachary's in your classroom? Read the rest of the post to learn new strategies that help you create an environment which recognizes one-size-does-not-fit-all.:
Write about your favorite TV program.
Write about a time you wished you could fly.
You discover a magic egg. Tell the story of what happens next.
While many kids will compliantly write to these starters, their responses are often formulaic, lacking both elaboration and voice. Because for every prompt there are obstacles. Maybe seven. Maybe three. Or if you are lucky, just one, and his name might be Zachary. When Zachary tries on the prompt it doesn't fit.
What the prompt says: Write about your favorite TV program.
What Zachary says: "I don't watch TV."
What the prompt says: Write about a time you wished you could fly.
What Zachary says: "I'm afraid of heights."
What the prompt says: You discover a magic egg. Tell the story of what happens next.
What Zachary says: "I think magic eggs are stupid."The obstacle is that one prompt doesn't fit all because kids need to make personal connections to their writing topics. (emphasis mine)
Image attribution http://www.utsa.edu/today/images/graphics/writing3.jpg