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Writing, the forgotten art. Or is it?

A post prompted by this tweet from Jonny Ingham:

@IHWO_YL_Ts Any suggestions for what to do with a painfully shy teenager who on paper is good but never says a word in class?

My first thought was ‘hmmm, how to get him speaking..‘ then suddenly I thought ‘Why? Why does he have to speak?‘ .

We seem to be obsessed with getting students to speak and teachers and students alike seem to believe this is the most important skill for communication blah blah blah but the ‘communicative method’, whilst perfectly fine, wasn’t really designed for today’s world was it?

OK, exaggerating, but my point is, I’m not sure teenagers actually ‘speak’ much to each other any more do they? My 13 yr old niece texts her friends during class while they are sitting next to her! and does she spend hours on the phone to her friends like I did as a teen? Hell no, she’s far too busy ‘facebooking’ and ‘inboxing’ and whatever the verb is for posting things on her tumblr to ‘express herself’.

I’m not suggesting we don’t bother teaching teens how to speak. In fact, I rather think they need this life skill more than anything to stop it becoming extinct! What I am suggesting is that speaking is perhaps not the channel teens are most comfortable and familiar with…so…to motivate them to ‘communicate’ in English, why not go with what they do in real life? I also think that ‘writing’ is something teachers thinkย  students will hate and avoid at all costs, or set it as punishment, but maybe what we need to do is rethink how we perceive ‘writing’ and how we present it?

So, after a rather lengthy preamble, here is my answer to you Jonny…

During the IH DOS conference I had an interesting chat to David and Dianna about writing, teachers attitudes and beliefs about teaching writing, and our own ways in which we bring today’s teen world into the classroom. So here is my idea, followed by David’s even better idea, which is simple and simply fab.

Paper-based Facebook
Laughable at first thought, isn’t it? A paper based facebook, but, kids love it.! I tried this out on summer camp as a way of getting kid’s to ‘mingle’ with others that they didn’t know. I made some ‘campbook’ sheets (that I will add at the bottom of this post if I can work out how) and each student and teacher filled one in. They were then hung around the campsite and each day the kids were given time to comment, respond, write to other students. Teachers also made an effort to write and comment on the pages. We found that even the quietest of students were writing things even if it was just ‘How are you?’ or ‘Your favourite colour is pink? Me too’.

David’s idea

David encourages his students to email/ sms/inbox (whatever lingo) each other during allocated times in class. He acts as the server and all notes go through him. The only rule is that it is English only. I think this idea is great and there are so many ways it could be utilised/ adapted. How about instead of a ‘pair check’ students ‘inbox’ someone else around the room and ask for their opinion on certain answers? How about they ‘inbox’ a friend to make predictions before a reading/ listening task?

So…after all that…this is my suggestion for Johny to try with his ‘quiet’ teen ๐Ÿ™‚

All comments welcome. I’d love to hear anyone else’s ideas for Jonny OR ideas for bringing writing back (it sounds more fun if you sing that last line JT style…I’m bringing writing back….I’m bringing writing back….).

P.S. Still planning a Puppyme post…one day soon!


About klokanomil

YL Advisor & IH CYLT Coordinator for IHWO. Teacher, teacher trainer, training mentor, writer, presenter, student, mum of crazy twin toddlers (affectionately known as 'the sausages') and coffee addict.

11 responses »

  1. I love the paper-based Facebook idea. It occurs to me that this could be used throughout a course and that it could even be used as GTKY exercise. For instance, if the learners have to have a ‘friend list’ they would need to go around and interact with the other learners to complete.
    Thanks K!


  2. Wow, Thanks Kylie!

    I’ve passed on your great ideas to the teacher of the painfully shy teen… I’ll let you know how she gets on.



    • Oh Dear, I think I’ve spelt your name incorrectly throughout the post :/ Do apologise, although did prewarn it was rough and unedited. I’ll go back and change it ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hope your teacher likes it. I’ll also add it as a new topic for the YL Google group in the hope of receiving more ideas for your teacher ๐Ÿ™‚

      Will I be seeing you in March? or someone else? (I have a bad feeling I already asked you this at the DOS conference – I do apologise for my fried brain).



  3. I really like the campbook idea. I did something similar with some teens a few year back where we recreated a “chatroom” on paper in the classroom. We also managed to incorporate all the “chat-talk” and emoticons.
    I have noticed too that the quieter students do tend to feel more confident writing, so I guess it’s a case of figuring out how to incorporate this into our classes without making it boring =)



    • Thanks Emma. Great idea ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m going to make a post for the YL Google group as well and with any luck come up with a list of ideas from around the world ๐Ÿ™‚ Fingers crossed!

      I’m so glad you mentioned the ‘b’ word. Is writing really boring? Or is this just something that teachers think? Or something that happens when it’s not set up well or presentend in an appealing way? I’m doing some action research on teachers attitudes to writing for my MA. Haven’t finished the survey yet but would be keen to know what you think.

      What makes writing ‘boring’? What makes writing ‘not boring’? Anyone?



      • It’s an interesting one, as I personally don’t find writing boring, and I don’t remember finding it that boring when I was studying (although that could be my rose tinted spectacles talking…). I do kind of think that students believe that it should be boring, so automatically start groaning when a teacher mentions writing. The jury’s still out for me as to whether this is due to students picking up an “anti-writing” vibe from the teacher, or just an innate “anti-writing” gene that students develop in the classroom.

        From listening to talk in our staffroom, I know some teachers dislike writing as they don’t think they know how to teach/mark it. It’s something that we’ve tried to address in our TD sessions, but I also think it’s something that each teacher needs to develop individually, to find something that suits their style.

        For example I like making writing interactive: group planning, group writing, marking eachothers work (which also helps the students familiarise themselves with the
        marking policy).

        I would also be interested to see what other people think too…



  4. What a novel idea. Even now I am more comfortable with writing than speaking if I have to be honest. I love the paper FB idea. I am doing a workshop on writing on Friday mine if I use this idea and refer the teachers that come to your blog?


  5. Pingback: Facebooking without facebook « klokanomil

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