There is a magic mirror in the Lower Primary 2 classroom. It not only reflects honest thoughts, perceptions and feelings, but is also a personal gateway to creativity, expanded literacy, and self esteem. This magic mirror is the weekly writing workshop. Every Thursday, students enthusiastically participate in one of dozens of games and exercises that explore the many aspects of language and words. These activities are so much fun that students do not realize that they are learning new words, developing literary devices, and stretching perceptual boundaries.
One week they could be stepping into the shoes of great poets to create their own literary works of art, while on another Thursday they could be combining words to create mythical animals that require them to use their imaginations and exercise their descriptive adjectives and nouns as they describe them in detail. Some activities build literacy directly such as a drama game that develops adverb skills and a sensitivity for the differences between similar words. Others are more subtle and stretch their perception by writing answers to questions like, “What would broken glass smell like?” or by completing definitions such as blue is…, sadness is… Each activity is underpinned by a specific literacy goal and links to other curriculum areas such as drama and visual art while enhancing listening and public speaking skills.
Here is an example of one of the exercises in detail.
When working with a poet such as Walt Whitman, students first receive a lesson covering the essential elements that define the poet’s work to provide a context for the exercises to follow. They are then given an easy to follow framework that allows them to emulate the poet’s style using words that they choose for themselves. It is through their individual word choice that their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives on the world are revealed to themselves and those around them. Because these exercises are so engaging and often require students to look inward, they and not distracted by those around them. I often see even the most reluctant writers deeply focused while participating in the activity. Afterward, students come to me to see how their spelling, punctuation and sentence structure can be improved. They are then free to rewrite and decorate the edited versions in their creative writing journals. When students are particularly proud of a piece they have written they may choose to read them out loud to their friends at the beginning of the next writing workshop or present it during our weekly arts café.
The sharing of work allows students to see from the perspectives of others, learn how to more succinctly express the wide range of human emotions and experiences, and to deepen their relationships with their classmates. As the students record the exercises in their Journals, a chronological record is created which shows their progression in language arts and their developing sense of self.
The two books that I find to be most popular and effective for raising student’s enthusiasm and developing their expressive skills are:
Greenberg, David Teaching Students to Love to Write. Language Lovers are Language Learners, Bureau of Education Research, Bellevue, WA
Koch, Kenneth (1990) Rose, Where Did you get that Red by? Teaching Great Poetry to Children, Random House of Canada, Toronto, Ontario
Categories: Lower Primary, News